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).
I think in this offense u dont need a "star" type of WR, u need a great route runner with good enough hands to keep the defenses honest, we can draft a WR late that will do good in this offense
@kendrickjones68 Wait until you see Griff Whalen play. He's a UFA signed last season but broke foot in preseason and spent the year on IR. Whalen was Luck's primary receiver at Stanford in 2011; he's a Welker/Collie type of receiver. Route running is his forte and his hands are reliable. He's healthy now and working out with Luck at Stanford. Plus, he'll know Pep's playbook style already.
I hope those routes you displayed arent only going to be used a decoys to get things underneath open. Unlike Arians, what I want to see from Pep is the ability to attack all three levels of the defense. Arians predictable calls and his lack of understanding of the offensive line really cost the Colts.,
@RobertItoh Arians didn't have the talent ensemble to exploit the shorter game, especially lacking Austin Collie or a similar receiver. At Stanford in 2011, Luck and Hamilton lacked the talent for a deep game until the end of that season. Fleener was the primary, reliable deep threat, as much for his hands as his height, but Luck had a run-first offense to manage. In that year, Luck's overall primary receiver was Griff Whalen, a Welker/Collie type, who happened to sign with the Colts as a UFA last season but spent the year on IR with a broken foot. Whalen's healthy now and working out with Luck at Stanford.
@Jayjaybe @RobertItoh I don't agree with you about Arians not having the talent for the short game ... He had his TEs and RBs ... Arians has a very strong philosophy and is adamant about the long game ... That's what was driving the offensive plan ...
@Jayjaybe @RobertItoh Well you said two things that have merit: the O-line was bad and Arians doesn't see his RBs as relievers. The second, of course, supports my point that the issue is Arians' philosophy ... Not that they didn't have receivers who could be utilized in a short passing game. Otherwise, I pretty much disagree with everything you say. Protecting Luck was hardly a priority of Arians. Try to think a little more creatively. Arians has a lot of guys who could be receivers ... He didn't chose to use them that way ... It's his philosophy, not the personnel that led him to the long pass approach. There are good things about that ... But it was philosophy driven and hurt Luck physically. I'm thrilled to have Pep as the OC ...
@RobertItoh If the Colts o-line had been stout at all, your notion would have merit. TEs were needed as blockers. Also, Arians' concept of a RB, per his own statements, does not configure a RB as a receiver--as a safety outlet, maybe. He wants them to take handoffs or block. Luck's protection was the crux of Arians scheme, along with the loss of Collie and Whalen. Reggie Wayne was too versatile and lacking backup to risk as a frequent replacement in Collie's role in the short middle.
@RobertItoh I don't think it was as much as Arians not understanding the lines, I think it was more of the lack of talent on the line. Arians adjustments were pretty decent in the second half and not to mention that when Shipley was in our run game was better thus creating more opportunity down the field.
@RobertItoh Hamilton's long routes sometimes are the first option, mostly on play action plays. But there is definitely more of a focus on the shorter routes.
I am excited to see how He uses Wayne, Wayne is very good at getting separation in short spaces and should thrive in this new offense.
Good job noting the variation. That was one of the most annoying things about BA's offense. I could predict what the Colts were going to do based on their formation more than half the time. If I could then, the defense definitely could. While execution is obviously the foundation of a West Coast offense, a little misdirection will be nice to see. To me that could help cut down hits on Luck nearly as much as the improved OL since the defense may have to think a little rather than just teeing off on Luck.
@hankster And Luck will be less of a target because the plays don't take so very long to develop. And his accuracy should be better for many reasons including that he won't be throwing as much to where he expects the receiver to be, just to find out he didn't get there ... Less of a time lag with shorter passes. There will be long passes too ... Just more of a mix than with Arians.