Heading into this week, I had already planned on writing about Bruce Arians on Monday and the man who replaced him, Pep Hamilton, on Thursday. My decision was validated by the response to that Monday article. Reading through the various comments, I was amazed at just how interested and passionate fans were in the position – and a little surprised that very few people seem even a little disappointed that Arians is leaving.
So today, let's have a Pep talk. Who is Mr. Hamilton, what does his hiring mean for the Colts, and what in the name of Blue the Mascot is the West Coast offense? I have the answers to NONE of those questions, but we'll fake it together after the jump.
Who is Pep Hamilton?
If this were twitter, the first line of this section would read something like this: I had no clue who Pep Hamitlon was until the Colts hired him #EmbarrassingConfessions
I did watch a lot of Stanford ball in 2011 as it became more and more likely that the Colts would earn the #1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, but the name of their offensive coordinator never really seeped into my consciousness. So let's start with the easy stuff, here's Hamilton's resume, as it were:
1993–1996 Quarterback (Player) – Howard University
1997-2001 QB Coach – Howard University
1999-2001 Offensive Coordinator – Howard University
2003 Quality Control – New York Jets
2004 QB coach – New York Jets
2005 WR coach – New York Jets
2006 QB coach – San Francisco 49ers
2007-2009 QB Coach – Chicago Bears
2010 WR Coach – Stanford
2011–2012 Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach – Stanford
I like that Hamilton played quarterback. I like that he's worked his way up through the ranks, and that he's been a position coach for both QBs and WRs – I think the perspective of both positions can only help him be a better coordinator. I also love that he's had NFL experience. None of these things are a requirement for success as the Colts Offensive Coordinator, but they can't hurt, either.
Then there's the fact that Luck and Hamilton have a relationship. Again, this isn't vital for Hamilton to be successful, but I do believe that there needs to be a level of trust and respect between a QB and his coordinator, and these two won't need time to develop it.
Finally, the biggest reason to like Mr. Hamilton is obvious: his first name is Pep! Pep Rallies, Pep in our step, Pep Talks (new name for our podcasts, anyone?), and thousands of yet-to-be-explored jokes involving "pep" food items: pepper, peppers, pepperoni, Pepperidge farms, etc… No one knows if Pep Hamilton is a good hire for the Colts, but we do know most media members will be too busy exploring these puns to find out.
The only thing I don't like about Pep Hamilton? HIS NAME. Just think of the thousands of HORRIFIC puns people are going to make. And let me set the record straight – I was the first one to use the "Pep Rally" joke. ME. ME!!! Not Jake Query, not … ANYONE. ME! GIVE ME MY FAME AND ATTENTION.
What does his hiring mean for the Colts offense?
It's always hard to judge a scheme change, philoshopy change, or a new hire in January. I know it's cliche, but actions really do speak louder than words. For example, around this time last year, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano – then recent hires by the Colts – were waxing poetic about building a team that would run the ball and stop the run. Only to field a team that did neither.
So let's look at Hamilton's opening quotes – doing so fully aware that they may mean nothing, but we have little else to go on at this point.
"It will be a variation of it," Hamilton said when asked about bringing the West Coast offense to Indy. "Short passing game, high completion rate. But I enjoy watching our guys coming off the ball and trying to knock the opponent back. I'm a big believer in the power-running game, I believe that opens it up for your passing game. I want to be flexible schematically in that we find ways to get the ball into playmakers' hands."
Hamilton also went on to compliment the 2012 Offense, and said he would take a look at some of the things they were able to do.
Okay – small quote, big impact. That's a lot for me to digest, to be honest. As you probably know, I'm a passing guy. While I disagreed with some of Bruce Arians' play calls and decision making, I absolutely loved the vertical concepts he installed. So to go from the most vertical, down field offense in the NFL to a power running, short, efficient passing attack? Not the greatest news I've ever received. And while it's true that, for now, these are just words, remember my anecdote about Grigson and Pagano last off-season: perhaps Hamilton was hired to execute their vision of a more run-oriented offense.
So let's take Hamilton's comments at face value, assume he'll install his offense, and weigh the pros and cons.
- The Colts will be forced to do something they were likely to do anyhow – fix their offensive line. There's no way they can run the type of offense Hamilton wants with the current unit.
- Many people felt as though the Colts "wasted" their 2nd and 3rd round picks in the 2012 draft. Not because TEs Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen aren't good, but because they were under-utilized in Bruce Arians' offense. Kiss those concerns goodbye! Fleener and Allen will be two of the biggest beneficiaries of this new offense.
- The play action passing game will be featured, which is something I begged for under Arians.
- Andrew Luck will get hit less. This can only be a good thing.
- Andrew Luck's efficiency stats will improve, causing people in the media – who are incapable of seeing anything more than a box score – to finally appreciate Luck! Clearly the most important "Pro"!
- I believe the best way to attack NFL defenses is by spreading them vertically, and applying maximum pressure via an aggressive down-field attack.
- I don't think you need a dominant power running game to make play action work. And despite what you'll read and hear, you don't have to run the ball to win.
- I want the offensive line improved, but I don't want to invest so many resources – draft picks, money, etc… – that it hampers the Colts ability to plug their other holes (of which there are many).
What is the West Coast Offense?
This is a great question. A quick definition: an offensive system perfected by Bill Walsh that centers on horizontal passing concepts and timing routes in an effort to stretch the defense horizontally to create running lanes and big plays.
There is a ton of information that I could write about the WCO. There is a lot to learn about the WCO. If you want to learn about it, I suggest you do it from someone who is much better at writing about these concepts, Chris Brown at Smart Football and Grantland. Here is his post on the core principles of the WCO.
So there's my brief take. I'll have a more "formed" opinion after free agency and the draft. What's your take on Pep and the WCO? Let me know below!