Colts OC Pep Hamilton Is the NFL's Hottest Head Coaching Candidate

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 7, 2014

Kyle Terada/USA Today

There was something I remember Matt Hasselbeck, backup quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, telling me about offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, 40, last season. It went like this:

Pep sees and remembers everything. It's almost like he has a photographic memory. He and Andrew Luck are a perfect tandem because Andrew also sees everything. I also think Pep is a great combination of strategist and listener. He takes in all input and listens to the players, but in the end he makes the decisions. That's the kind of coach you want.

I didn't use quotes above because I didn't record the interview, but that representation is pretty accurate. I can tell you that one of the best-liked and most respected people in that entire organization is Hamilton. One of the best-liked and most respected people in football is Hamilton.

To say the NFL has Hamilton on its radar is an understatement. Based on what I'm hearing from a number of team officials, he is the hottest head coaching candidate in all of football. (Adam Gase, the Broncos' offensive coordinator, is considered a close second, though he is penalized—maybe unfairly—by some in the league for the perception that Peyton Manning is the Broncos' true offensive coordinator.)

Several league sources say Hamilton will be among the leading candidates, if not the leading candidate, with two different high-profile teams should they make coaching changes. Hamilton would be a strong consideration in San Francisco, several sources say, as an alternative to the hard-charging (and that's putting it nicely) Jim Harbaugh.

January 24, 2014; Ko'Olina, HI, USA; Team Sanders offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton of the Indianapolis Colts (left) and quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts (12, right) pose for a photo during the 2014 Pro Bowl media day at J.W. Marriott Ih
USA TODAY Sports

The other discussed scenario among some team executives is if the Giants fail to make the playoffs again, Hamilton would replace Tom Coughlin.

Now, to be clear, these are scouts and personnel men speculating, but this type of speculation is often rooted in some sort of fact. In the NFL, speculation often becomes reality.

What's certain is that Hamilton will have his pick of a number of jobs once the season ends. Good jobs. Great jobs.

Not that Hamilton should be in too big a hurry to leave Luck, 25, maybe the best young quarterback we've seen since Peyton Manning, but if Harbaugh whines and moans his way out of San Francisco, the 49ers would do pretty well to land Hamilton.

While some Colts fans have had a complex relationship with Hamilton, what I can tell you is that within the sport overall, among coaches and executives, there is nothing but extreme respect for him. The main reason, I'm told, is how well he's brought along Luck—slowly, deliberately, patiently. Hamilton relied on the running game (maybe too much so last season) initially as a way of protecting his QB, then as the signal-caller grew exponentially, allowed Luck to be Luck.

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 07:  Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton talks with quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts during a time out against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 7, 2014 in
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The only criticism I hear of Hamilton's offense is that Luck takes too many big shots from defenders. And that is true. There isn't a quarterback in football who takes nastier hits than Luck, not even the running QBs like Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson.

In January, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Hamilton was a candidate for the Vanderbilt head coaching job. Think about how quickly Hamilton has risen. Vanderbilt? Hamilton's stock has become so valuable, so rapidly, the idea of him going to Vanderbilt now is laughable. Unless Vanderbilt now plays in the NFC West.

One general manager said this of Hamilton: "He is almost as good a head coaching prospect as Luck was a quarterback prospect coming out of Stanford."

That might be a little much, but I can tell you these are the kinds of things being said about Hamilton across the league.

What does it all mean?

See you in San Fran next year, Pep.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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