April 9, 2011; San Francisco, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton (left) and quarterback Andrew Luck (12) talk during the Cardinal & White spring game at Kezar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
New Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton’s press conference yesterday began in a decidedly straightforward manner: “Well, I’m Pep Hamilton. I’m the new offensive coordinator, of course, for the Indianapolis Colts. I’m excited to be here.” Hamilton eased the some people’s worries that the Colts might altogether abandon the deep passing game, discussed some of the offensive looks – ruling out few if any – we might see this year, and talked some about his experience so far coming back to the NFL.
The Colts’ New-Look Offense
The hiring of Pep Hamilton, who’s job title at Stanford was the “Andrew Luck Director of Offense,” signaled a change in philosophy that could translate into fewer sacks and a higher completion percentage, but also brought concerns that the deep passing game could all but disappear from the offense. Hamilton, who has virtually lived at the Colts complex in recent weeks, alleviated some of those worries and sounded like a coach who wants to work toward the strengths of the players on the roster – something Tom Moore excelled at as the OC in Indy.
“I think it’s important that we all understand that we’re a sum of all our parts offensively,” he said. “We’ve got to do whatever it is that our players do well. It’s obvious just based on production that we had in the passing game this past season, that we’re a team that can push the ball downfield. That should create paranoia for our opponents. Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, our tight ends, guys that can really run and get downfield and make the big play in the passing game, and of course Andrew (Luck).”
Hamilton went on to praise Andrew Luck’s ability to avoid pressure and throw accurately on the run, saying, “That’s a talent and a gift that we can continue to use to our advantage.” In all, he sounds as though he has a very good feel for the type of offensive players he has inherited and is ready to utilize them in a way that maximizes their strengths.
So, how will the 2013 Colts offense look? It will be a West Coast Offense, but Hamilton was clear that there is more to it than that. His philosophy is very much about causing problems for the opposing defense, or creating conflicts, as he likes to say.
After emphasizing the obvious need to protect the quarterback better, Pep went into detail about some of what he wants to do. “I think it’s important that we have balance in our offense,” he said. “We’re not just a one-dimensional football team. We want to create conflicts for our opponents. We want to have the ability to not only push the ball downfield and hit the big play in the passing game but we’ve got to be able to run the football and hammer the nail saw.
“We’re going to work hard to do that, work hard to establish balance in the offense. We want to control the clock. We want to be really good on third down and really good in the red zone. We have to play great situational football. On first and second down, there’s no can’t do’s. We’ll do a great job of mixing in some power runs, mixing in the downfield passing game, maybe even mixing in some wildcat plays, mix in some read-option, pistol-type schemes. Just really try and present once again a lot of conflicts for our opponents.” Yes, you DID just read the word “wildcat.”
The offense will still have some deep routes and big play capability to compliment the short passing game. They will try to establish better balance. There could also be some college-style read-option plays. But wildcat? Your eyes did not deceive you. Do not dismay, however. They’re highly unlikely to be planning to reincarnate the 2008 Miami Dolphins offense or anything like that. However, Hamilton did use the formation successfully with Luck in 2011 at Stanford. You can click here for a video.
No Room for Old-School Fullbacks
The West Coast Offenses of the 1980s and 90s used the fullback position extensively, and almost exclusively out of the backfield, of course. Hamilton was asked if he would utilize a fullback in the same manner.
As far as he was concerned, he’d rather have TE Dwayne Allen than a true fullback. “I think if you just look at the versatility of Dwayne Allen and his ability to line up in the backfield and lead block, or line up and detach and line up in the slot, and win the one-on-one matchup, that’s a tremendous weapon that you want to have in any offense,” Hamilton said. “I think that if we can keep the one-trick ponies off the field, it just puts a lot more pressure on our opponents defensively to try and anticipate what it is that we want to do.
“The art of deception is a big part of offensive football, as you well know. They are big enough, tough enough, strong enough on defense that if they know that you are going to run to the right and they know that you are going to follow your fullback and always run behind your fullback, that downhill, old school, Sam Gash, neck roll wearing fullback, they are going to make the appropriate adjustments and create problems for you offensively. We like the versatile guy, the guy that can present the conflicts. (Allen) can do a lot of different things and do them well.”
Quick Quotes: We’re Not in College Anymore
Pep on his typical workday: “Well, it’s a lot different than the typical college coach’s working today. I’m not taking breaks to make recruiting calls, going to compliance meetings or going to check and seeing if guys are attending study hall which we didn’t have that issue at Stanford. It’s been all football, all day, sun up to sun down. I can honestly say that in the two-and-a-half, three weeks that I’ve been here at this facility, I’ve only seen sunlight maybe twice. It’s not because it hasn’t been sunny here. Uncharacteristically, I’m hearing that you’ve had more sun than you typically have in the winter. But it’s just because I close the chute, went into the bunker.”
Pep on picking a coordinator job with the Colts over a college head coaching job: “The opportunity to win the championship of all championships and ultimately have a chance to work for a storied franchise like the Colts franchise and work for Mr. Irsay and Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, I felt like it was an amazing opportunity. The NFL is all about the haves and the have-nots. Either you have a franchise quarterback or you don’t (laughs). I think we all feel good about the potential of the young quarterback that we have here with this franchise.”
- Hamilton has spent a great deal of time studying his new personnel. He can’t work directly with any of them or give instructions until April because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but he appears to know exactly what he will have at his disposal.
- He mentioned Donnie Avery twice, sounding as though the inconsistent speedster could figure into the Colts’ plans for the future.
- He kept mentioning his Norv Turner’s influence along with all the obvious West Coast connections and philosophies, partly to remind people that he knows how to call vertical plays.
- Phrases from Pep that stuck out to me: “create paranoia for our opponents,” and, “The art of deception is a big part of offensive football.”
- Finally, this guy is bright, and he knows football. He’s also fairly young and could be a head-coaching candidate somewhere in a few short years. Our hope as fans should be that he is successful here but still manages to stick around long enough to establish some continuity and develop the young Colts offense.
As usual, all quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.
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I'm sorry if this has already been covered, Luck's final season with Pep he only threw 45% of the time. That was surprising to me. His YPA in college was 8.71, in the pros 6.98. The completion percentage in college was 71%. Pep will be passing the ball more (I hope 56/44 ratio). His receivers at Stanford were average at best.
I'm excited about Pep, I would like to see the Ravens pass to run ratio 56/44 implemented. if you don't have franchise QB you have anything in todays NFL. I do think that the QB has become too important.
"He mentioned Donnie Avery twice, sounding as though the inconsistent speedster could figure into the Colts’ plans for the future."
The Colts' media personnel have consistently talked up Avery's contribution to the team while suggesting that his obvious deficiencies, drop rate, would improve with more time working with Luck. What they said in Avery's favor was the team liked how when Luck was under pressure escaping the rush or simply extending the play, Avery kept working to get open.
All the analysis of the this year's prospective FA WR's has been very good. My argument is that it is unlikely the Colts will spend big money on a FA WR.
By the way who was the last FA WR the Colts signed of any note, Brandon Stokely in 2003? And Stokely was nothing special until his break out year in 2004. But Stokely was the type of player who would work well with Peyton and get along with Harrison and Wayne.
The suggestion is that the reluctance to sign big name/money/ego FA WRs may be organizational. If so, don't just blame the dead hand of Bill Pollian. If may be Irsay's view that counts.
Avery is most likely at best a respectable journeyman receiver. Unless the Colts are faced with a no brainer BPA draft opportunity or strike gold with a late round pick or UDFA, Avery is on the team in 2013.
That's kind of a misnomer. We had 2 HOF receivers until the 2009 season. We had drafted 1 slot guy and had another starter in the wings for when Marvin retired. They were awesome for two seasons plus Reggie sticking around. The first real chance we needed another WR was this offseason, so we didn't have the money to sign anyone good.
@Payton If the Colts pick up a true future #1 outside receiver it will be through the draft. Like I said, a no-brainer BPA pick. Otherwise, the Colts will focus on developing a lower round pick or an UDFA 2013 rookie for a 2014 starting position like they did with Pierre Garcon. The Colts will not over pay for a FA WR in a year when they are at best a payoff team but not a likely Super Bowl contender. They would rather muddle through this season seeing if they can develop the current receiver squad. In that scenario, the odds are they resign Donnie Avery as a bridge to the future.
The priorities are to build an interior offensive line to protect Luck and give him time to throw. Winning the division will most likely involve finding a way to stop J.J. Watt. Next is a filling 3-4 major holes on defense. If the Colts can do all that in free agency, they will be in great shape to draft a #1 receiver. Don't see that happening, so Avery sticks around to at least training camp.
@MarcusDugan @thellammajockey @Payton Marcus makes a good point. But while Reggie was a #1 receiver in terms of targets, especially during the first half of the season, but he was hardly an outside speedster last year. Wayne in the Arians' offense was performing a role similar to Hines Ward's in the last phase of his career at Pittsburgh. Wayne has lost a step in terms of speed, but he is a superior route runner with good improvisational skills. Like Hines Ward who retired at 35 but could have played another year if Arians stuck around in Pittsburgh, Wayne should be able to play at a high level for a couple of more years. It is sad that Collie, who could have transitioned into Wayne's role is unlikely to be back next year. It is perhaps telling that Hamilton did not mention Collie. Still it will be interesting how Pep Hamilton uses Wayne.
My question would be, were any of the big name FA WRs talked about really a good replacement for Wayne? Mike Wallace might have the skills, but he took real issue at the idea of becoming "just a route runner" for Pittsburgh and skipped out on training camp last year demanding big bucks. Unless Wallace has changed his attitude and grown up a lot I can not see the Colts making a bid for him. Otherwise I thought Wallace was a possibility for the Colts, if Arians had stayed on as coordinator.
@thellammajockey @Payton First of all, thellamajocky is a fantastic username. The o-line is definitely a giant priority, and there are a ton of holes on defense. However, they do have a potential problem at receiver. Older receivers drop off very quickly, and Wayne is on borrowed time at 34. He can't be the number one guy much longer. So, there is a chance they could look at a big name receiver, as long as it's a cap-friendly deal (incentive laden, perhaps). The thing is, with 40-46 mil in cap space, AND the new cap floor rule, they will have to spend some money. They're required to spend a minimum of 89% of the salary cap, which should be around $121 mil. That means the Colts have to use up about 26-32 million of that 40-46 mil to get to 89%. It's also strongly possible that they'll draft a couple more receivers, hope Reggie can be a number one for another season, and develop them, possibly, as you said, using Avery as a stop-gap. I guess we'll find out in March and April. Kinda exciting, really.
Humm, with this new CBA it would be kind of cool for the coaches to speak to their players through the media example: "It would be really cool if a player like Hilton would WATCH film of MARVIN, and really work on his ROUTE RUNNING because I see him doing a ton of SHORT ROUTES next year for the COLTS OFFENSE THAT I PLAN TO PUT IN" lol
@MarcusDugan good stuff. I like Pep already. Then again I'm a bit of a snob, so smart people make me happy.
Mentioning Donnie Avery twice... perhaps he does need to see a little more sunlight. (Or maybe he thinks that by spending all his time evaluating film, that makes him more capable of passing judgement on the talents of Avery than me just watching the games once in real time.)
And what is this business about being deceptive on offense? I thought offense was all about lining up the same way every time and knowing exactly what the defense was going to do and then attacking their weaknesses without mercy. (Oh yeah, there is basically only one person capable of conducting things in that manner. I'm obviously referring to the late, great Curits Painter.)
Pep: "Avery, Wayne, Hilton, and Avery
Marcus: "You said Avery twice."
Pep: "I like Avery."
@Payton @DougEngland Hilarious, though nothing he said was that concise (It was a loooong, but interesting transcript). I'm thinking @bradicus18 is right. It wouldn't be good to leave the guy's name out if the player was hoping to re-sign. He did sound kinda high on the guy (my impression while writing late last night). If he does indeed like Avery, maybe he sees something coach-able that can be fixed........
@DougEngland I think he was simply mentioning Avery because he is still on the roster.
As for Curtis Painter, I don't think the league will ever see another player with his level of talent. Mercy was a word not in his vocabulary.
Really glad to read the comments about Allen. I had posted in an earlier article that I thought Pep would use him and Fleener as part of a 2 TE 2 WR personel set. The flexibility allows you to run pro-set, power I, 2 TE on the line, 3 WR (Fleener in the slot), 4 WR (with Allen or RB split wide) or even go empty backfield. Just smart use of best people. Can't wait to watch this thing get rolling with Luck calling plays based on the D. (Where have we seen that before?) Now if Grigson can just fix the OL....
@Music Man I agree about the tight ends. With those two, they can use the same personnel for so many different formations. Like a shape-shifting offense. One thing a lot of people didnt talk about last year was that Luck had to call all the OL protections at the line. It might've been a bit much for a rookie. Maybe this year, they'll either assign that job to a lineman, or Luck will get better at it (if he wasn't already very good).
@MarcusDugan I have always thought that the reason Peyton (and now so many others) did the line calls was so they were sure where the OL weakness would be if the D blitzed. That way they knew where to throw it. Perhaps that was an incorrect assumption.
@Music Man I bet you're right. And the quarterback has a better view of the defense than a lineman. It's just not very common to ask a rookie to do that. So I have this hope that maybe that was part of the protection issues last season and something that will improve (especially with a couple new starters) as Luck either improves or gives it to a lineman. Sometimes, Peyton would still have Saturday call protections. I don't quite know why.