In preparation for writing this piece for Bleacher Report last week, I did a bit of research to find out what others had to say about Pep Hamilton and the new offense, most of which came back when he was originally hired. I also have interacted with fans on Twitter and in comment threads about the transition, and I’ve come up with a few misconceptions that I’d like to address.
The best way to sum up the themes that will likely be re-emphasized or introduced in Hamilton’s offense is through what is now the most famous play that will likely ever be associated with Andrew Luck: Spider 2 Y Banana.
Because of its appearance on ESPN, a lot of fans associate this with Luck, and Pep Hamilton. With the hiring of Hamilton, and the trading for FB Stanley Havili, I’ve read and received many tweets, emails, and comments about the possibility of the Colts using this play in their 2013 offense. Frankly, I have no idea if this play will be a big, small, or any part in the Colts’ offensive plans for 2013, but I do expect that the themes present in the play will have a much greater impact in Hamilton’s offense than they did in Arians.
To see those the themes best, we’ll be taking a look at some tape from Luck’s final NCAA game, the 2011 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
First and foremost, Spider 2 Y Banana is a play action, which is something I expect to see much more of under Hamilton. I’m not going to discuss it much here, as the aforementioned B/R piece is largely addressing that issue.
The second theme that we can apply to this play is how Hamilton’s offense views the depth of routes.
With Arians’ offense, Luck’s attention was downfield at all times. While the play designs sometimes had short and underneath routes built in, Luck’s first read was downfield and the last option was the “safe” throw. This caused an unending amount of frustration among Colts fans when the team struggled to sustain drives, but also was a reason why the Colts were able to move down the field very quickly at times.
In Pep Hamilton’s offense, it’s the other way around. You can see it in the “Spider 2 Y Banana” video, as Luck emphatically proclaims the fullback in the flat the number one option.
It’s not that Hamilton’s offense doesn’t use deep routes, in fact there are deep routes in many of the plays in that offense. The difference is that the routes are used to open up the short routes. In Spider 2 Y Banana, the two deep routes (after the play action) force the defense to scramble back, leaving the fullback underneath open.
You can see the same themes in the Fiesta Bowl. On the following play for example, Stanford has three wide receivers running deep on 2nd and 5, while the wide out on the far right runs a five yard buttonhook.
Luck’s immediate read is that receiver, who is open with the one-on-one matchup for a first down.
Similarly, Stanford ran this play later in the same quarter.
In the five receiver set, every receiver except the slot left runs a deep route, three streaks and one deep post. The slot left runs a shallow drag across the field, filling the void left by the three right receivers.
As you can see, when the slot receiver catches the pass (just three yards past the line of scrimmage), there is nobody within 10 yards of him, and he turns the three-yard pass into a 15-yard gain. Plays like these work perfectly against man-to-man defenses.
On both of these plays, as well as Spider 2 Y Banana, the first read is the short or underneath route. Like Luck says, what is the motto of this offense?
“You can’t go broke making a profit.”
Sidenote: I wanted to include this in here, even though it didn’t fit with the other themes I was going through.
One of the benefits to Hamilton’s scheme is the diverse sets that it uses. Like Pagano/Manusky’s defense in 2012, they can line up in many different ways, and do.
For example, the following two plays happened on subsequent drives. Both were 2nd and longs, but the formations were drastically different, with the first being a two-tight end, I-formation power-running set, and the other being an empty backfield, four receiver shotgun set.
With the Colts’ variety of personnel, we can expect similar variations. The Colts can go run heavy with their two tight ends and recently acquired full back (and still have a decent amount of passing weapons on the field with Fleener, Allen, a WR, and a RB) as well as spread sets with Wayne, DHB, Hilton, Brazill, and Fleener on the field (not to mention any rookie WR that may be drafted).