Change can be death for a young quarterback.
Instability in the front office or coaching staff has derailed more than one burgeoning NFL career. That's why when Bruce Arians left Indianapolis, the Colts faced a dangerous decision.
They sliced their Gordian knot by hiring Pep Hamilton of Stanford to Andrew Luck's new offensive coordinator. Hamilton offered the team something no one else could: familiarity with Luck.
Part of the reason the move has been so well received in Indianapolis is that it means Luck won't have to learn an entirely new offensive system. His development won't be slowed by a change in coaching.
However, there are big changes in store for the Colts. While Arians' high-flying, big-play (and big hit on the quarterback) style offense represents one extreme thought in the NFL, Hamilton brings a short-passing West Coast attack.
So will the Colts' offense be radically different in 2013?
Luck himself has something to say about it. While at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, Luck addressed the media and commented on his new/old offensive coordinator. He said he's still formulating a plan for the offseason, but long talks with Hamilton are in the cards.
I think we are still working on a plan for the offseason and how to approach everything. I’m sure we will go back and look at nearly all the passes, see what went well, see what went wrong, see if there’s any mechanical issues per se that you can work on in the offseason. Then obviously, re-integrate myself with Pep’s (Hamilton) offense and create a strong dialogue which is going to be very important.
Luck knows the offseason is critical as the Colts implement a new scheme and get young players up to speed with a change in the way the offense operates.
I think it’s huge. Folks say you make your biggest strides between year one and year two so this offseason, for personal development, I think it’ll be very big. Then as a team, we’ve got to get better and figure out a way to hopefully win the big one next year.
If there was a weakness to the Indy offense in 2012, it was in the area of completion percentage. Luck had one of the worst marks in the league, thanks to a combination of pressure, drops, deep routes and good old fashioned missed passes. He knows that has to get better in 2013.
I think accuracy in all the levels of passing, whether it’s deep, short, intermediate. Just giving guys accurate balls that they can catch and run with, that’ll be very important. I think just building up a rapport with receivers and making sure that maybe what we couldn’t complete last year, we are completing this year.
He stopped short of blaming Arians for the sub-55 percent completion percentage, but had to acknowledge the new offense was designed around shorter, more accurate passes.
I guess so. You could say that. What we were running last year, there were opportunities as well. I’m not going to blame bad throws on the plays that were called. I don’t think that’s right at all. But I guess so.
The key to the Hamilton hire will be his flexibility in working with Luck. The future of the Colts will depend on Luck's ability to help craft the perfect offense that works for him.
That's going to mean picking and choosing from what he's learned from both Hamilton and Arians to blend it into a seamless whole.
I think it will be a hybrid. There’s so many great things that coach (Bruce) Arians taught us, coached us up on. I think Pep (Hamilton) has some really great stuff that he knows and he coached.
I think we’re going to do whatever gives us the best chance to win, whether it is chunk the ball, or the short stuff, we’ll figure it out. I think it’ll be important this offseason to create strong dialogue between the players and coaches about what we think works and what we think doesn’t.
What makes Hamilton a great hire is that because of his pre-exisitng rapport with Luck he's more likely to be open to blending some of the depth that Arians instilled in Luck's game with his own short-passing concepts.
No one runs a pure anything in the NFL these days. Every system has wrinkles and mutations. Hamilton won't be installing the playbook from the 1984 49ers.
Luck isolated on the key element to the offensive development. Communication between coordinator and quarterback is the first step. Collaboration is the second. Melding the best of what Arians offered with the strong foundation Hamilton brings from Standford could yield spectacular results.
Regardless of what scheme Hamilton runs, he offers the Colts the one thing other coaches couldn't guarantee.
He's someone who will listen to Luck.
All quotes courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR department via direct press release.