Can Pep Hamilton Help Justin Herbert Develop?

By: Matthew Zimmer

The Los Angeles Chargers drafted Justin Herbert on April 23, and yesterday the Chargers hired their new quarterbacks coach, according to The Athletic’s Daniel Popper.

Former XFL DC Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton will be, at least partially, responsible for developing the former Oregon Duck QB.

Hamilton has been a QB coach four other times in the NFL with the Jets, 49ers, Bears and Browns. Hamilton also spent time with Andrew Luck, both in college at Stanford and the NFL in Indianapolis.

Will Hamilton be able to help Herbert develop? That’s obviously what the Chargers hope will happen, but I’m skeptical.

Hamilton’s Resume

Since entering the NFL in 2003 as an Offensive Quality Control Coach, Hamilton has held six different job titles with eight organizations. To me, that doesn’t really instill a lot of confidence. Stick with me through his resume.

He coached with New York as the quality control coach in ’03, then coached the Jets QBs (2004) and wide receivers (2005) before moving to San Francisco to coach quarterbacks again in 2006. Then, he coached the Chicago Bears QBs from 2007-09.

Hamilton went back to college from 2010-12 with Stanford, where he coached WRs again (2010) and then became the Offensive Coordinator/QB coach (2011-12) under David Shaw.

Next, he jumped back to the NFL from 2013-15 as the OC of the Colts, after Bruce Arians left.

Hamilton was fired in Nov. 2015 from Indy before heading to Cleveland as the Browns Asst. Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator in Jan. 2016.

Then, Hamilton went back to college (again) from 2017-18 to join Jim Harbaugh at Michigan as an Asst. HC/Passing Game Coordinator. He left that job to be the Head Coach and General Manager of the DC Defenders for the XFL’s brief revival in 2020.

Hamilton Good, Not Great

Why did I give you Hamilton’s resume? Because he didn’t stay in any job for longer than three seasons. To me, players and coaches need more than two years to really develop a rapport. However, some of the choices to leave were Hamilton’s, so if he jumped around we don’t really know if he’s responsible for a certain player’s development.

Hamilton was fired from the Colts, as mentioned, after the Colts offense left something to be desired. He wasn’t the only issue with that offense, I grant you that, but it’s hard to say how big he impacted Andrew Luck. The now retired QB did have his best season in 2014 with 4,761 passing yards and 40 TD passes. What I can’t know for sure is, did Hamilton make Luck better or was Luck finally acclimated to the NFL (he was in his third year in 2014) which helped him adjust/grow?

Hamilton is clearly a smart coach, or at least a great salesman in interviews, but because he jumped around so much I honestly can’t pinpoint his impact on specific players.

Before you use his quarterback’s numbers in the XFL, just don’t, it’s unfair. The DC Defenders QBs only threw for 720 yards in five games (144 per game), but the talent level wasn’t exactly NFL quality, it wasn’t even Justin Herbert level, with the Defenders. Hamilton will be able to impact Herbert and veteran Tyrod Taylor more directly because he’s the QB coach not the head coach or even the offensive coordinator.

With all these factors compiled together, Hamilton will be given every opportunity to make Herbert better, but I just don’t know how much Hamilton will make Herbert better. Herbert is the most talented QB Hamilton has worked with since Luck, so maybe it won’t matter if Hamilton impacts the new Chargers quarterback.

Herbert is a unique talent, and he needs to improve, but Hamilton won’t be the guy to unlock Herbert’s true potential. I’d be happy to be wrong.

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