Less than 24 hours after Arians was hired as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, the Colts reportedly found his replacement at offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton of Stanford.
Where Arians is a 60-year-old gunslinger wedded to the vertical passing game and its propensity for “chunk” plays, Hamilton is a 38-year-old disciple of the West Coast offense, which calls for shorter passes and a heavier emphasis on the running game.
The system and terminology certainly will be familiar to Luck, Coby Fleener and Griff Whalen, who worked with Hamilton at Stanford. For the rest of the offense, it will be a departure.
Hamilton has eight years of experience as an NFL assistant, primarily as a quarterbacks coach. He was with the Jets from 2003-05, the 49ers in 2006 and the Bears from 2007-09. He spent the past three seasons at Stanford, the last two as offensive coordinator.
In an interview with Stanford’s official athletic website when he was promoted to O.C. in 2011, Hamilton outlined his coaching philosophy.
“The system we have in place at Stanford is very much the West Coast Offense. Seven out of my eight years in the NFL have been spent working in that system. Having worked with Paul Hackett, who was once the quarterbacks coach for Bill Walsh at the 49ers, I’ve tried to adopt many of the same processes he used at the Jets. … When you look at the 32 NFL teams, 18-20 run the West Coast Offense.”
A former quarterback at Howard University, Hamilton – whose job title at Stanford official was “Andrew Luck Director of Offense” thanks to an alumni endowment – has maintained a strong commitment to the running game.
In Luck’s final season, 2011, Stanford ran more than 100 times than it passed (518 to 417). After Luck’s departure, Stanford attempted 549 running plays in 2012 compared to 399 pass attempts.
“We need to continue to control the line of scrimmage. Every good quarterback I’ve ever been around has excelled because they have made the other team defend both the pass and run. We are still a run-first team. Consider the fact we possibly have the best player in college football on our team and at the end of the day, we need to create conflict for opponents by controlling the line of scrimmage and running downhill at people. … It’s like a heavyweight fight. We want to methodically wear you down.”
That represents a 180-degree change for the Colts, who had 628 pass attempts and 440 runs under Arians in 2012. Luck had 65 completions of at least 20 yards and the Colts ranked third in the NFL in yards per completion (12.0).