Indianapolis Colts OC Pep Hamilton fired as upper management fights for jobs

by Kent Sterling

Pep Hamilton was the first to go, but his firing will likely only buy others time.

Pep Hamilton was the first to go, but his firing will likely only buy others time.

Jack Nicholson told a story in an interview about how prisoners in concentration camps who were murdered with poisonous gas by the Nazis were found.  Men on top, women beneath them, and children at the bottom of the pile.

A vent was near the ceiling and the higher up people went, the longer they survived.  The strong stood on the weak for a few more seconds of life.  While hardly noble, a human being’s instinct for survival is strong.

That’s how professional life works with most people too, and so as the pressure of a 3-5 record for the Indianapolis Colts became too great, Pep Hamilton was trapped on the floor under the weight of general manager Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano as they fight to get closer to the vent.

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All are doomed, minus a miracle reversal of fortune doing the second half of a season where expectations were so high not so long ago, my hair is now blond (a story for a different time).  But that won’t stop the Colts bigwigs from fighting for their own survival.

Was Pep Hamilton a great offensive coordinator?  Not by any reasonable statistical measure.  One of his predecessors, Tom Moore, was great.  He quietly put players in a position to succeed, and many became stunningly productive assets.  Several are or will be hall of famers.

Like many really smart guys, Hamilton always seemed determined to outsmart defenses rather than put his players in a position where they could best succeed, but whatever problems have caused the Colts to stumble so badly – especially in the early portions of games like last night’s thrilling debacle in Charlotte – Hamilton is but a small cause.

There are issues like the almost complete lack of pass rush for which Hamilton cannot be held even remotely culpable.  Vontae Davis and Greg Toler were not exactly shut down corners last night either.  The quality of the drafts and free agent signings were not in Pep’s arena either.

If Hamilton’s firing buys Pagano a little more cover, or maybe more to the point allows him to go out with the staff of his choosing, at least he and the Colts can be sure the right move is made at the end of the season if Pagano needs to go.  From this point forward, Hamilton cannot be used as a scapegoat.

Grigson hired Hamilton to replace Bruce Arians, who accepted the head coaching position with the Arizona Cardinals after leading the Colts to the playoffs during Pagano’s convalescence as he successfully fought leukemia.  Pagano brought in Rob Chudzinski as a special assistant over a year ago, and he was promoted to associate head coach after the 2014 season ended.

Chudzinski will replace Hamilton, and at the very least Pagano will now be able to sink or swim with his own staff.

Hamilton became a more likely patsy with each week for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was his relentless desire to accept responsibility for all of the offense’s woes.  Every damn week, Hamilton would stand at the podium to claim guilt for all offensive misfires during the previous game.

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Pagano was (and is) much more politic.  When he accepts responsibility, it’s a vague admission bereft of elocution for the specific crime of which he is guilty.  He initially received a bit of credit for saying the chaotic fake punt against the Patriots was on him until it was revealed what specifically Pagano was actually guilty of.  The vague falling on the sword did nothing to provide Griff Whalen cover for snapping the ball.

The Colts may have solved a problem today, but when the story of the Colts 2015 season is written and complete, Hamilton’s role in it is much more likely as a fall guy rather than a root cause of the serious problems that have caused this team to stagger through a three-game losing streak with a fourth straight tough game ahead Sunday against the NFL’s best defense.

Hamilton might be at the bottom of the pile as those standing on him fight for oxygen, but he likely won’t be the last to be offered up as continued hope is sold to fans by the Colts.

One thought on “Indianapolis Colts OC Pep Hamilton fired as upper management fights for jobs

  1. The Daily Bulldog (Scott Patrick)

    Well Kent, I’d say that most saw a pink slip being issued to someone during last night’s game, albeit with possibly the faintest hope of a temporary reprieve after the late comeback which fell short in overtime. Which, by the way, was put on a tee by No. 12, not on a poorly designed or called play by Hamilton, but by No. 12 himself with yet another inexplicably poor throw, but I digress.

    This is nothing more than, as you said, the assignment of “The Fall Guy” title to Hamilton in what will ultimately be the story of (and feel free to call me out if I slide into rank hyperbole)one of the most disappointing, humbling and startling falls from grace and failures to live up to expectations in league history, or at least the 30 years or so of league history that I can personally recall in any level of detail, both in terms of team (although I’m not all that surprised that this is a .500 roster at best, sans a healthy 12) as well as individual expectations where No. 12 is concerned. From once in a generation heir apparent to Peyton, to the absolute worst (statistically) starting quarterback in the entirety of the NFL. I truthfully can’t recall a team in any season that failed to even come close to achieving their goals as this group, but I’m sure there are other examples.

    In any event, to get back on point, was Pep even so much as Tom Moore ultra-light? Absolutely not. Is he the reason Andrew leads the league in interceptions despite 2 fewer starts than his peers? The reason he puts the ball on the ground so frequently? The reason he stares down 1st options with such stunning frequency? Absolutely not. Was he the right offensive coordinator to help take the Colts back to the Super Bowl? Candidly, I’m not qualified to make that assessment, but what I do know is this. It’s been well documented how close Andrew was to Pep, and it’s also painfully obvious that Andrew is suffering from just as much mental destabilization on the field as physical, be it a shoulder, ribs or a Forrest Gump-esque bullet to the buttocks. That leaves me wondering if this latest attempt at putting lipstick on the proverbial pig in order to make her prom worthy will ignite a spark in the most disappointing offense we’ve seen in central Indiana since 2001, discounting the Curtis Painter “era” of course, or if it will submerge Andrew even further into the depths of emotional and decision making despair. As some bloggers and beat writers have stated, this can, and well may, get worse as opposed to better before it’s over.

    Further, it’s also been said that no one in the front office nor on the coaching staff is safe from here on out on a week to week basis, so the irony isn’t lost on me that Peyton and the league’s best defense that just completed an utter dismantling of the highly skilled, well performing Aaron Rogers’ and his vaunted offense may well come into Lucas Oil Stadium, place Peyton on the all time greatest quarterback throne in several major statistical categories, and in doing so, usher in yet another complete rebuild prior to the end of the season, as was the case when the decision was made to let him go in favor of a young Stanford graduate. I’m in no way suggesting that that was the wrong decision. I just find the irony quite compelling.

    As you so aptly pointed out, Pep will be remembered not as the problem, but as the initial fall guy, with more to come in short order. There’s air to be had from that vent that the mountainous Ryan Grigson is closest too at 6′ 5″, with Pagano having found a step stool in the corner, but as fast as they’re gasping for that air, Jim Irsay is stuffing that lone vent with insulation and old newspaper to cut off what air remains as the losses mount and his beloved Horse Shoe is eaten alive by “The Monster” that he hired Grigson and Pagano to build.

    So then, in closing, what might be the saddest part of all is that after showing so much promise over the prior 3 seasons, this “new era” of Colts football is quite likely to come to an end with a resounding thud, and with the possibility of not only a sub .500 record, but the lack of a playoff berth despite residing in a division that will likely require no more than 7 wins to capture it’s crown, and in failing to do so, “The Monster” will have not only eaten the initial 20% of Andrew Luck’s career, but could well have left mental and self confidence damage and roadblocks to elite level play that could take far longer to heal and ultimately correct than whatever physical injuries he’s suffered through this season after nearly 4 years of being beaten like a bass drum.

    As Duke Tomato said for so many years, “Lord, help our Colts”.


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