Instead of moving into his second year under offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Luck and the Colts offense will enter 2013 with former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton running the offense.
Arians, after helping the Colts qualify for the postseason in 2012 as both the offensive coordinator and interim head coach, accepted a job to be the Arizona Cardinals' next head coach. While the Colts could have stayed in-house for his successor, they instead went to a well-known commodity in Hamilton, who has been Stanford's offensive coordinator since 2011.
Under Arians, the Colts were a vertical passing offense that depended (and thrived) on Luck's ability to push the ball upfield and avoid an onslaught of pressure. The result was an NFL rookie record 4,374 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and an average completion of 12.9 yards.
With Hamilton calling the shots, expect the Colts to have a different, more controlled approach. The new offensive coordinator said as much Sunday, insisting that the West Coast offense will likely make its way to Indianapolis, according to ESPN:
"It will be a variation of it. 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's offensive philosophies during his two years at Stanford mirror what he's reportedly planning in Indianapolis. A power-run offense, fueled by heavy sets and pulling linemen, is then complemented by a play-action passing game that attacks down field.
In theory, the offense is one of the most difficult to stop in football. The run game can be punishing; the attacks off play-action devastating.
Luck, during his career at Stanford, quickly became the nation's most efficient and damaging quarterback using an offense based on the power run and play-action pass.
However, winning with Hamilton's switch will require the Colts to find mauling offensive linemen and then rededicate to the run. Currently, Indianapolis does not possess the kind of talent up front to be a downhill running team.
But even without a perfect offensive line, the power run game can work. Getting more blockers to the point of attack than the defense has tacklers is a fundamental aspect of the offense, and when the defense flows too many defenders to the area, play-action opens up passing lanes and one-on-ones across the field.
At that point, vertical options like T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery and Coby Fleener can go to work on defenses.
The concept worked over and over for the Cardinal under Luck. Below, we provide a look at the Stanford offense under Luck's direction during a 2011 win over Notre Dame. The Cardinal scored 28 points as Luck threw four touchdown passes and Stanford dominated the contest on both sides of the ball.
In his one year at Stanford with Hamilton, Luck completed 71.3 percent of his passes (he completed 54.1 in his rookie season) with an average yards per attempt of 8.71. The two figures point to a focus on the short, West Coast style passing game and also the attacking nature of play-action.
Given the right pieces, Luck can eventually accomplish those same numbers in the NFL. Now, the Colts have to go about getting the remaining pieces to complete the transformation from Stanford to Indianapolis.
Expecting the Colts to draft an offensive lineman or two in April's draft is far from crazy. The five that protected Luck last season simply aren't good enough, whether Hamilton was hired as the offensive coordinator or not.
Vick Ballard and Donald Brown are capable running backs, but it's possible that the Colts would want to invest a draft pick on finding the physical presence at the position Hamilton likely wants.
Of course, some will worry about the changes Hamilton is likely to bring to Indianapolis. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But the Colts offense in 2012 wasn't perfect, and Hamilton's system is proven at every level of football.
If Hamilton can get the Colts offense to be even close to the efficiency that Stanford has enjoyed over the last two seasons, this switch will be an improvement for Indianapolis.
The changes should be tangible, but the results could be super for Luck and the Colts.