Pep Hamilton Keeping Colts Offense on Fast Track


Over the past two seasons, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has been the object of a love-hate relationship with the fan base. Although the case could be made that Hamilton’s play-calling has been hindered with Trent Richardson being forced into the lineup, he’s largely managed to place his offense in positions to succeed.  Hamilton has gotten more efficient and creative, helping Andrew Luck make the best of his situation.

Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton during game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line has dealt with injuries over Hamilton’s first two seasons, ultimately creating a revolving door of starters and depth guys attempting to create some sort of chemistry to build upon. Unfortunately, the running game has clearly suffered as a result of the inconsistent protection. The running game has averaged a meager 4.1 yards per carry in 2013-14, which makes it awfully hard to present a dual threat on offense.

To make matters worse, Luck has been pressured on 33% of his dropbacks, sacked 59 times and hit another 18 times, as he has released the ball with Hamilton calling the shots. Don’t be misguided by these figures. Hamilton has had nearly as many issues to deal with calling plays as Luck has had running them, namely with personnel. With all of the offense’s shortcomings, Hamilton has come along nicely.

He and Luck have a familiarity that very few have with their NFL offensive coordinators, and for all of the complaining, life in Indianapolis could be a lot worse. In 2013, and even sporadically last season, Hamilton was criticized about not putting the ball in Luck’ hands more often. Some of this comes from being under the collective thumb of Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson however.

Would it surprise you if I told you the Colts actually ran the ball more last season than they did in 2013?  In fact they did.  Although very similar, in 2013, the Colts put the ball in their running backs hands 25.6 times a game — in 2014, 25.9 times per game.  Maintaining this consistency contributed to the Colts offense improving in efficiency and nearly every other aspect as well.

The Colts offense improved in several key areas from 2013 to 2014. 

  • Play Volume | 2013: 62 snaps/game | 2014: 67 snaps/game
  • First Downs | 2013: 279 | 2014: 331
  • Third-Down % | 2013: 38% | 2014: 41%
  • Points/Game | 2013: 24.4 | 2014: 28.6

Transitioning from a “run first” to a “score first” offensive mentality certainly did the Colts some good as shown. Largely, Hamilton is putting together a pretty nice resume that will undeniably get him right back in the conversation for head coaching jobs following the 2015 season. So, what should we expect to see from this offense in Hamilton’s third season?

The offensive line appeared to get a nice boost when Khaled Holmes returned to take over the starting center role in Week 13. Throughout the final eight games (including the playoffs) the line allowed less than 1.4 sacks per game and appeared to be gelling with Jack Mewhort and Anthony Castonzo solidifying the left side of the line. With Gosder Cherilus aging, and struggling both in the passing and running game, a long-term replacement for the right side of the line may be needed in free agency or through the draft.

This should make Hamilton’s life much easier as he has the quarterback, an exciting receiver corps, and tight ends to work with as well as a solid chance at getting a top-tier running back out of the draft. With these weapons at Hamilton’s disposal, one can only imagine the possibilities.

Luck is only going to get better, as will his young coordinator in Hamilton. The latter’s ability to evolve according to his personnel will only get more refined and particular. Hamilton is a bright offensive mind, and the Colts presumably won’t have him for much longer — so we should enjoy the ride while it lasts and appreciate what we’re sure to see in store from the offense in 2015 and beyond.

September 22, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton (visor) talks to quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. The Colts defeated the 49ers 27-7. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports