L.A. Chargers second-year quarterback Justin Herbert put on a clinic in a big road win against the highly touted defense of the Washington Football Team on Sunday.
As observers watch Herbert continue to elevate as a young quarterback, those in the know can’t help but say, “That’s the work of one Alfonza ‘Pep’ Hamilton, quarterback guru.”
— Joey Gridiron (@JoeyGridiron) February 18, 2018
Now, don’t get it wrong. Herbert has all the tools, standing 6 feet 6 and 240 pounds with a rocket for an arm and outstanding feet. He was a high draft pick (No. 6 overall in 2020) but scouts and analysts had reservations about his mechanics and how long it would take him to be able to compete at the pro level. He was called a “project.”
Boy, Were They Wrong
One year of learning and tutelage under Pep Hamilton changed that. Hamilton’s résumé stretches far and wide and speaks for itself. He’s served as an offensive coordinator for the Colts, working with 2012 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck.
A name to consider for Head Coach: #Chargers QB coach Pep Hamilton: "When it comes to developing a young QB (Luck, Herbert), transitioning them to the pro game & also having the recent college experience (Michigan) to shorten their learning curve, who's more uniquely qualified?"
— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) January 5, 2021
Pep’s also been the assistant head coach for the Cleveland Browns and Michigan Wolverines, where he developed quarterbacks and directed the passing games.
As the GM and head coach of the XFL’s D.C. Defenders for one season, Pep made NFL bust Cardale Jones look like the star quarterback the Buffalo Bills envisioned when they picked him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft fresh off a national championship.
Hamilton has worked with quarterbacks as a position coach or coordinator on the pro or college level for 21 out of his 25 years in football.
He hasn’t been able to secure a head coaching job yet, but when a team has a young quarterback that needs developing or a veteran that needs mental reshaping, Pep’s services are in high demand.
Prepare The Future
The Chargers brought Pep in during a tough 2020 COVID season.
Herbert, who was drafted with the expectation that he would replace the departed future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers, wasn’t able to attend any training camps with the Chargers staff. The best he and Hamilton could do was converse via text and video and during the virtual mini-camps.
We talked Chargers rookie minicamp this morning on NFL Now. QB coach Pep Hamilton told me one of the things that impressed him about Justin Herbert and identified a homework assignment he gave to the former Oregon star. pic.twitter.com/gNUizwLedJ
— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) May 11, 2020
When asked about his strategy with the young player, Hamilton said, “We’re preparing Justin to be ready to come in and compete from Day One.”
Whatever Pep did during those virtual sessions worked because Herbert shattered almost every NFL rookie passing record in existence: most passing touchdowns (31) and most completions (396).
The QB Whisperer: Deshaun Watson Who?
It wasn’t by accident and it wasn’t surprising. Hamilton is a genius when it comes to developing quarterbacks, having coached up a list of starters prior to making Herbert’s NFL transition as smooth as a Michael Jackson moonwalk.
Quarterbacks like Luck and Alex Smith, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton and Chad Pennington have all had success on the NFL level and attribute much of their rapid advancement to Hamilton, who is now the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Houston Texans.
Fans all wondered why the only people who weren’t panicking about DeShaun Watson missing games due to an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations were the Texans. That’s because this season they added Hamilton to the staff and brought in a veteran quarterback who had already been touched by Pep’s wisdom and guidance in the past.
Journeyman Tyrod Taylor was supposed to be the starter in L.A. before a punctured lung sidelined him and Herbert swooped in and stole the job. Hamilton spent significant time with Taylor as well in 2020. The 11-year veteran, who didn’t become a starter until 2015, took Pep’s jewels, went to the Texans, and looked like a poor man’s Deshaun Watson on Sunday.
-6th Round pick by Ravens
-Becomes Pro Bowler with Bills
-Traded away after taking Bills to playoffs
-Benched in his 3rd game with Browns
-Had his lung punctured by Chargers team doctors, never started for them again
-STILL throwing dimes
— Stark Raving Sports (@StarkRaveSports) September 12, 2021
Known as a game manager whose greatest asset is his ability to protect the ball, Taylor became a playmaker, throwing for 291 yards and two touchdowns to lead a season-opening win over the Jaguars.
What’s In Pep’s Kool-Aid?
Texans backup quarterback David Mills says Hamilton is constantly coaching up his quarterbacks even during the game.
“A big thing we have worked on is just staying loaded at all times in the pocket, so whenever something pops, we are able to get the ball out in a split second,” said Mills during the preseason.
“And then, a lot of the stuff (Pep) does on game days is just making sure we are prepared for everything the defense is showing us.”
So much for all of the people who said the Texans weren’t going to win a game this season. Those doubters underestimated the heavily influential hand of Pep Hamilton, the NFL’s quarterback whisperer.