Jets OC Candidate Profile: Pep Hamilton

Pep Hamilton's name has come up as a potential replacement for Mike LaFleur. Pep would be an odd choice. Not that his resume doesn't warrant attention, but he just has no connection to Robert Saleh or the Shanahan offense. If the Jets do decide to go after Pep it would be because he is one of the most effective QB developers in the NFL today.

Pep got his start as a college coach. He was the QB coach and Offensive Coordinator at his alma mater, Howard. After he was fired from that job it seemed as though his career had fizzled out. Then Herm Edwards and the Jets came to the rescue. They named Hamilton an offensive quality control coach and he quickly rose through the ranks. After just 1 year Hamilton was named QB coach for the young Chad Penning then moved over to WRs in 2005.

In 2006, Norv Turner poached Pep Hamilton for his new offensive staff under Mike Nolan in San Francisco. He was to be in charge of coaching the 1st pick in the NFL draft, Alex Smith. That went about as poorly as could be, as Smith quickly became known as a bust as he struggled through his rookie year. Hamilton was fired and joined the Bears in 2007.

Fresh off a Super Bowl appearance Hamilton was put in charge of solving the Bears QB issues. The team was determined to make young Kyle Orton their QB of the future. Sadly, Orton started just 3 games in his first year with Hamilton due to injury. However, he blossomed under Hamilton in 2008. After throwing for 12 TDs and 15 INTs, 5.2 yards per attempt, and completion 52% of his passes in his first two years Orton became a legitimate starter in year 3. He threw for 18 TDs to 12 INTs, he jumped to 6.4 yards per attempt, and raised his completion percentage to 58.5%. So what did the Bears do? They sold high for a different young QB, Jay Cutler. Cutler had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2009 and Hamilton was promptly fired.

Hamilton would return to college at that point, and that's when his career completely turned. In 2011 he became the OC and QB coach for Stanford. He had perhaps the easiest task in all of football, make a functioning offense for Andrew Luck. Obviously Luck dominated and went 1st overall. In 2012, Hamilton helped transition the team to redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan, who would also later be drafted. But by 2013 his first big shot came.

Chuck Pagano hired Hamilton to be the Colts OC and help Andrew Luck reach his limitless potential, as Bruce Arians had been hired to run the Cardinals after just one year with Luck. The results? Luck blossomed into a star and the Colts went from 18th in scoring under Arians to 14th and 6th in Hamilton's first two years. However, the offense completely fell apart in 2015 when Luck was injured and only played 7 games, finishing 24th in scoring. Hamilton was fired as a result, the scapegoat. The Colts averaged 22.4 PPG with Luck, and 19.6 points without him.

Hamilton then made the poor decision of joining the 2016 Browns. Hue Jackson's squad went 1-15 and Hamilton bolted for college again. This time joining Michigan. He lasted 2 years at Michigan before Jim Harbaugh was hired and Hamilton was let go. Again, he was almost out of the league before the DC Defenders called him to be a head coach in the XFL. Hamilton's Defenders were their division leaders when the league folded halfway through the season. This earned Hamilton another shot though.

Once again, Hamilton was brought in to mentor a young QB. This time it was Justin Herbert with the Chargers. Herbert would go on to have the greatest rookie season a QB ever had. Hamilton left the Chargers for larger responsibilities in Houston where he thought he'd be working with Deshaun Watson. That didn't happen. Instead, he became stuck with 3rd round rookie Davis Mills. To Pep's credit, Mills looked like the 2nd best rookie QB that year. He come in firing with a 66.8% completion percentage, 6.8 yards per attempt, and 16 TDs in 11 starts. Hard to hope for much better than that. As a result he got promoted to OC this past season. Mills regressed tremendously, in large part due to the lack of offensive weapons. However, Dameon Pierce did become a star as a rookie.

This very long look at Hamilton's career tells us a few things. First, Hamilton is excellent at getting the most out of his QBs. Even a dud like Davis Mills still managed 17 TDs in Hamilton's offense with little offensive weapons. He's developed stars like Luck and Herbert as well. He turned Kyle Orton into an NFL starter as well.

Second, Hamilton always ends up the scapegoat. Cutler has a bad year while Orton looks good? Fired. Luck got hurt? Fired. Hue Jackson sucks? Fired.

Hamilton's had little opportunity to prove his metal as a play caller, but when he has it hasn't been great. It's not just that the Colts offense was bad in his last year there. It's not just that the Texans offense took a step back this season. Even look at his time in the XFL. Pep's offense was second worst in the entire league, and he was only 3 points better, 82 to 79, then dead last.

Pep is brought in to coach young QBs around the league for a reason. He's one of the best in the league at developing them. As an OC though? He's shown nothing that says he'd be an improvement over anyone, as he's had no success without Andrew Luck.

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