Pondering a Colts' West Coast offense

January, 19, 2013
1/19/13
7:00
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It’s too easy to talk about the Colts finding a new offensive coordinator who wouldn’t change what the team did on offense in 2012.

Barring a Bruce Arians clone -- and none of those appear to be available -- the best thing the Colts could to do replace Arians was get the best coach they could find. With Arians in place as the Cardinals head coach, I think the Colts did that by luring Pep Hamilton from Stanford, where he worked with Andrew Luck.

But Hamilton is not coming to Indianapolis to run Arians’ offense, he’s coming to Indianapolis to run his own.

"It will be a variation of the West Coast (offense),” Hamilton said, per Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star.

I’m trying not to be scared by the idea that the Colts big-play, vertical offense from Luck’s first season will be reduced to a short-passing, rhythm offense that puts a premium on efficiency and completion percentage.

The latter system, run well, can be beautiful and efficient. Big plays can still arrive, though they are likely to be shorter throws with more yards after the catch.

But who doesn’t love the long ball and the way the Colts under Arians rarely settled for a check-down? Every football fan in America thinks his team isn’t aggressive enough. It was really hard for a fan of the Colts to feel that way in Luck’s rookie year.

Hamilton is the best alternate to Arians the Colts could have found, I believe. You’ve got to get the best coach you can get. The offense is going to change when you do, and we’ll have to wait and see on how much and how it works.

Hamilton said he’ll look to “enhance” the offense from last season (per George Bremer of the Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.) and that it’s premature to talk of just how much things will change (per Wilson).

In the meantime, here’s my biggest hope: That Ryan Grigson’s building plan doesn’t change.

If the offense was the same, the Colts needed to upgrade on the offensive line to protect Luck better.

Even though Luck will surely be urged not to hold the ball as long in a West Coast offense, the Colts can’t afford to devalue the offensive line as the previous regime did too often while Peyton Manning was the quarteback.

Sure, Luck can get rid of the ball quickly -- and in Hamilton’s offense he’ll likely be asked to do so more often.

Still, Luck’s got a unique ability make things happen by holding onto it and allowing things to develop downfield. Grigson admits Luck got hit too much last season. The Colts still have to make sure that when he holds it, he’s safer. Upgrading the offensive line has to remain a priority.

The linemen will have a new coach, as Harold Goodwin is going with Arians to Arizona, where he will be offensive coordinator.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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