The hottest HBCU head coach candidate just hit the market this week when the Indianapolis Colts fired former Howard quarterback Pep Hamilton as offensive coordinator.
Every program that just fired its head coach (Jackson State) — or will soon give the axe to its head coach (everybody else) — should make Hamilton No. 1 on the priority list.
NFL experience. Hamilton has been an assistant coach with the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and most recently the Colts before he was fired Tuesday.
The former Howard QB was hired by Indianapolis in 2012, and the offense improved from 28th to 18th that season before rising to 13th in 2013 and sixth last season.
Much of Hamilton success has been tied to quarterback Andrew Luck, who he worked with while an offensive coordinator at Stanford and then in Indianapolis, which ultimately led to NFL head coaching interviews. Hamilton was a finalist for the Oakland Raiders job that eventually went to Jack Del Rio.
Power Five college experience. Hamilton was the quarterback and offensive coordinator at Stanford from 2010 to 2012 under David Shaw. While at Stanford, the Cardinal offense averaged 43.2 points per game in 2011, which ranked seventh in the FBS with Hamilton calling the plays before dipping to 27.9 points per game in 2012.
HBCU experience. Hamilton’s first coaching job was at his alma mater, Howard, where he started out as the quarterbacks coach in 1997 before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 1999. Prior to his coaching stint, Hamilton was quarterback for the Bison from 1993 to 1996. Additionally, understanding the HBCU football culture doesn’t hurt either. Being able to tell recruits that he’s been in their shoes as a player at an HBCU should be beneficial.
Baby face: At 41, Hamilton is still young enough to relate to athletes of this generation and the current nuances of football, which should serve well in recruiting and player development. And boosters and suits love the young, energetic coach who can galvanize a fan base. Hamilton is that.
Lack of head coaching experience. This is a major hole in his resume. It is possible that Hamilton could be a good head coach when examining where his coached and his accomplishments at those stops. But every first-year head coach is partially evaluated on potential even though there is little track record of performance in that position.
Lack of recruiting experience. Never being a head coach at any level obviously hurts if the rookie coach was not heavily involved in recruiting talent for a program during his coaching stints. Even though Hamilton has been an assistant in college, we don’t know the extent he’s helped in recruiting process.
Andrew Luck. Hamilton’s rise from college coordinator to NFL coordinator has been tied to the success of Andrew Luck. With Luck and Hamilton at Stanford, the program ranked as high seventh in the FBS in points per game. The season after Luck was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Stanford’s offensive production slipped even though the team won the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl.
With Luck in Indianapolis, the Colts went from doormat without Peyton Manning to Super Bowl contender with Luck in the fold until Hamilton offense sputtered this season. Can he win as a head coach without a Heisman finalist and Pro Bowl QB at his disposal will be the question?
HBCUs. Hamilton might not have the desire to lead an HBCU program after coaching at the FBS level and in the NFL. He might see an HBCU job as a step down from his immediate goal of becoming an NFL head coach. It is also rare than an HBCU head coach jumps from that level to a bigger, more lucrative head coaching job.
Even though Hamilton has never run a program during his coaching career, he’s the best candidate on the market because of the wealth of experience and success he has in the fire in major college football and the NFL. Plus, he isn’t a retread or a member of the old HBCU coaching guard that seemingly have been sought with mixed results. Hamilton is an intriguing prospect who should be on every short list once the season ends.