Is Texans versus Chargers the ‘Pep Hamilton Bowl’?

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  • Houston Texans
    Houston Texans
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  • Los Angeles Chargers
    Los Angeles Chargers
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  • Pep Hamilton
    Pep Hamilton
    American football coach and offensive coordinator
  • Davis Mills
    Davis Mills
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  • Justin Herbert
    Justin Herbert
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  • David Culley
    American football player and coach

HOUSTON — Houston Texans’ quarterback coach Pep Hamilton spent all of the 2020 campaign helping Justin Herbert with his rookie development with the Los Angeles Chargers. Herbert, who took the starting job from Tyrod Taylor in Week 2 of the season, ended his rookie year throwing for 4,336 yards to take the honor as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Hamilton departed from Herbert in March to join the Texans’ coaching staff with David Culley at the helm and has since replicated his task of molding a rookie quarterback. Instead of working alongside a four-year prodigy from Oregon, Hamilton has helped in the continuous growth of rookie quarterback Davis Mills in Houston.

“Pep has done a ton for me growing within this offense as a quarterback,” Mills said during his media availability via Zoom. “Each day is different in the preparation week. Every day we are going through the installment of the offense, and he gives me a preview of what he is going to install. He has been a great help — along with T.K. [Tim Kelly], and all of the other quarterbacks in the room.”

Culley said he always respected Hamilton throughout his career. While describing him as a patient teacher, Culley admires the work Hamilton did with former Indianapolis Colts’ All-Pro quarterback Andrew Luck.

Hamilton’s relationship with Luck began at Stanford University in 2011 before the Colts hired him to take over as their new offensive coordinator in 2013. The coach and quarterback duo spent five years together between the collegiate and pro level — where Luck became a four-time Pro Bowler while accumulating 23,671 career passing yards during a seven-year NFL career.

While he doesn’t mention his top prodigy often, Mills said Hamilton uses his foundational teachings of Herbert as an example through film study.

“Pep has a way of being able to keep those guys calm, and there’s a progression that you’ve got to go through,” Culley said prior to practice on Wednesday. “He’s taking Davis through that. Obviously, we had to put him through it a lot quicker than we wanted to have to put him through it. As I said, the two starts he’s had now since then, other than the one bad throw he had in the game last week, he’s progressing very well.”

On Sunday, Hamilton may regret his teachings to Herbert when his 3-11 Texans face off against the 8-6 Chargers at NRG Stadium. Since departing from Los Angeles, Herbert has thrown for an average of 270.5 yards and 32 touchdowns through 15 games this season, and became the second-fastest player to reach 8,000 passing yards in 28 career games.

While he will take the field against his former team as an underdog during Week 16, Hamilton has a slim chance to rout his former mentee with Mills playing the best of his rookie campaign.

Following Houston’s 30-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Mills has thrown for an average of 270 yards and three touchdowns over the previous two games.

Both Herbert and Mills are playing some of the best football of their young careers, and both players have the lessons from Hamilton’s quarterback institution to thank.