Original Story | ESPN
INDIANAPOLIS — One by one, coaches and players Andrew Luck has known and been close to for years have departed.
It started with offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who was also Luck’s coordinator at Stanford, being fired at the midpoint last season. Then went Clyde Christensen, Luck’s longtime quarterbacks coach. Receiver Griff Whalen, whom Luck roomed with at Stanford, wasn’t brought back.
But the departures weren’t over.
Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and tight end Coby Fleener, another teammate of his going back to Stanford, are no longer on the Colts for different reasons.
Change is part of the NFL. But Luck, the Colts’ franchise quarterback, saw the most significant changes of his career around him this offseason.
Plus, Luck has only played one game with new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Luck’s biggest challenge is regaining the form — and health — he enjoyed while leading the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons in the league. He missed nine games last season with kidney, abdominal, rib and shoulder injuries and threw 12 interceptions in the seven games he played.
There’s little doubt within the Colts organization that Luck will rebound from last season.
But what about when he returns to the sideline after a series or when he’s in the film room looking at tape? Hasselbeck and his 17 years of NFL experience won’t be there for the quarterback. Hasselbeck is now an ESPN analyst after the Colts decided not to re-sign him.
Christensen is now the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator.
Scott Tolzien is the Colts’ new backup quarterback and Brian Schottenheimer is Luck’s new position coach after being the University of Georgia’s offensive coordinator last year.
“Yeah, I feel … fortunate that I got to spend four years with Clyde Christensen,” Luck said. “One of the finest coaches I’ve ever been around, a fine man, and I think he’ll do great down in Miami. And again, fortunate to have played with Matt for I guess three years and learn so many lessons from him. Not just about being a quarterback but what a great role model he is for an aspiring father and a family guy. So now we have to watch him on TV and probably criticize us a lot, which will be great.”
Fleener signed a five-year, $36 million contract with the New Orleans Saints after the Colts chose to re-sign tight end Dwayne Allen because they believe he fits in their scheme better. Whalen is joining Christensen down in Miami.
Luck’s biggest adjustment will be working with his third offensive coordinator in just five years in the NFL. Luck had his best game of the season in Chudzinski’s first game running the offense. The quarterback was 21-of-36 for 252 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Colts’ victory over the Denver Broncos, who were undefeated at the time, in Week 9. Luck’s season ended because of a lacerated kidney suffered in the fourth quarter of that game.
“Football is football and at the end of the day there are only so many concepts, there are only so many things you can run as an offense but you do have to learn the new language,” Luck said. “There is carryover but it’s like learning a language. You have to sit down and sort of build a foundation and build some fundamentals and go from there.”
Coach Chuck Pagano, like Luck, doesn’t seem overly concerned about the changes made around his quarterback.
“[Chudzinski] will do a great job with the design, and the schemes that we employ week in and week out will give our quarterback and our offense the best chance to succeed, move the ball, put points on the board,” Pagano said. “We still want to be a vertical pass team. We still have to take our shots down the field at the appropriate times. I think we all saw a small glimpse in a short period of time. It happened on a bye week, we played Denver, the game Andrew obviously got hurt in. I think we all saw a small sample size of what our offense is going to look like moving forward, beating that team and having the success that we did on that day and Andrew looking like Andrew.”