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Colts Coordinator Pep Hamilton Will Have to Work out His Own Offensive Identity

Posted By Nate Dunlevy On February 14, 2013 @ 9:33 am In Colts News | No Comments

Wildcat? Pistol?


There was no question that when the Indianapolis Colts [1] hired Pep Hamilton of Stanford to run the offense for Andrew Luck [2] that there would be changes in Indy.

Hamilton is known for running a West-Coast-style offense which is completely removed from Bruce Arians‘ bombs away approach.

Hamilton spoke to the Indianapolis media, however, and clued everyone in to just how different things might be.

Most what any coach says to the media can be chalked up to meaningless blather, but there were several red flags from Hamilton.

He spoke at length about the dreaded bugaboo “balance.” While running the ball is important, the best, most effective offenses pass far more than they run. Hamilton doesn’t see it that way, saying,

I think it’s important that we have balance in our offense. 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.

Obviously, there’s a lot of coach-speak mixed in there, but Hamilton went on to bring in other concepts that are wildly out of place for an offense with an elite passer. He added,

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.

Words like pistol and Wildcat should send a chill into the hearts of fans who want to see Luck develop into one of the league’s elite passers. The Wildcat would be the worst possible option for a team that actually has a quarterback who can throw the ball.

What is still unclear is exactly what Hamilton’s vision is. He was careful to indicate that he has a vertical streak to his West Coast training as well.

So to say that we’re West Coast offense, I think that term has become somewhat cliché in football. I’ve had the good fortune of not only working in some West Coast offensive systems, but I’ve worked with Norv Turner [3] who’s in a sense the complete opposite.

The digit system, the Coryell offense is a push the ball down the field, play action passing based offense. If you look at what we were able to do successfully at Stanford, I think there was a good mix of both.

Hamilton has been exposed to many different styles of offense over his career, and his challenge will be to synthesize those into a cohesive whole.

I think I’ve benefited tremendously by having the opportunity to work with the Paul Hackett and the Norv Turners and the Mike Heimerdingers of the world. I think it just really helped me to in a sense think outside the box.

But the West Coast offense is traditionally a short passing game, higher percentage completion offense, a good mix of power runs and of course some play action passes. Well the Norv Turner offense, the Coryell system is somewhat the opposite. It’s still a power running game and some play action passes but they do a good job of mixing in the shot plays, the play action shot plays, the intermediate throws.

Once again, I wouldn’t pigeonhole us and say that we’re just a one-dimensional certain style of offense. I think the ability to be able to present a lot of different errors and looks and conflicts for the opponent is going to be a big part of what we do.

Perhaps his most troubling comment was that he referred to Donnie Avery as if he might still be with the team in 2013. Easily one of the league’s most damaging receivers to his own team, the Colts would be wise to let the free agent walk. Still, Hamilton included him in his assessment of the offense.

In trying to create conflicts, the ultimate conflict is a matchup issue for the defense. That’s what Reggie Wayne affords our offense. That’s what, ultimately, Donnie Avery with his speed and his stopping speed and T.Y. Hilton, dynamic slot players, and Dwayne Allen, the big body, post the linebacker up, post the safety up tight end type, and Coby Fleener, a six-five, six-six guy with wide receiver speed.

Those are the things that they give us that they’ll give us the ability to do as an offensive unit and create those matchup problems. That’s the number one conflict that you want to exploit and that’s just having a guy that’s better than their guy.

“Having a guy that’s better than their guy” is impossible if your guy is one of the worst receivers in football.

Among the few bright spots of his comments revolved around his plans for the use of Dwayne Allen in a full back roll. Full backs are out of place in the modern NFL [4], and it’s generally a waste of a roster spot to dedicate one player to the position. Allen offers the Colts flexibility.

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.

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.

As Hamilton develops his own identity and works to craft an offense that meshes with Luck’s unique skills and intellect, his challenge will be to move beyond anyone scheme and develop his own vision.

As long as he remembers who his best player is and puts Luck in a position where he is the one dictating matchups he’ll have a successful tenure. The key to an offense predicated on mismatches is to allow the quarterback freedom at the line to identify and exploit those advantages when presented.

If he takes the ball out of Luck’s hands too often or falls in love with an antiquated run-heavy offense ill-suited for success in the modern NFL, he could set the Colts back several years.

If, on the other hand, he combines the best techniques from all his stops to create a vertical offense designed to quickly move the ball downfield, there’s no limit to what Luck and the Colts will achieve.

Quotes courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts and were provided by direct press release.

Read more Indianapolis Colts [1] news on BleacherReport.com

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URLs in this post:

[1] Indianapolis Colts: http://bleacherreport.com/indianapolis-colts

[2] Andrew Luck: http://bleacherreport.com/andrew-luck

[3] Norv Turner: http://bleacherreport.com/norv-turner

[4] NFL: http://bleacherreport.com/nfl

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