“If the Colts are your favorite team, you should be psyched you have a guy like him under center,” said Hasselbeck, a 16-year veteran.
Hasselbeck was added by the Colts last year as valuable insurance in a time of need. That time did not arise as Luck started 16 games and produced a second 11-win season that included a playoff berth.
“We came in the first day and talked about cutting down on interceptions and the amount of hits the quarterback takes,” said Hasselbeck. “Andrew was able to accomplish both those goals (and) improve in other areas.
“You always set out to improve things. At the end (you) ask, ‘How did we do at those things?’ It can be hit-or-miss sometimes. They are weaknesses for a reason. Andrew made them strengths last year.”
Indianapolis set a franchise record with 14 turnovers, and Luck credited Hasselbeck in helping shave his interceptions (nine) in half from 2012 and lowering his miscues from 23-to-11.
“We had good conversations about not trying to throw interceptions in practice,” said Luck. “He talked to me about some of the better teams he’s been on really made a concerted effort to complete balls in practice. Matt’s helped me a lot in making it a point of emphasis.”
Hasselbeck was impressed before the year about Luck being driven by being a player and not with the trappings it affords, and the feeling was enhanced after the season.
“I’ve been very, very impressed with how much he can handle, how much we put on him, his leadership style,” said Hasselbeck. It’s all good stuff, and it’s all going to improve.”
Hasselbeck quickly credits Pep Hamilton, Clyde Christensen and Chuck Pagano (“Coach Pagano is very involved. Thirty percent of our meetings, he’s sitting in there talking football from a defensive perspective,” he said.), but feels his ability to converse with Luck on a player’s wavelength helps.
“More than anything, it’s just competing with each other on a daily basis,” said Hasselbeck. “Whether it’s quizzing each other on formations before a game, racing in pre-practice warm-up, or, ‘How much did you do in the weight room today?’ Hopefully, it helps.”
Some casual observers early last year questioned the need for money spent on a veteran backup to Luck, but it was a move Ryan Grigson and the organization felt was important.
While Luck stayed healthy throughout the year, some of his teammates did not. It was there Hasselbeck paid dividends in an unexpected way.
“Where I felt I helped him the most was working with younger receivers, tight ends and practice squad guys who ended up having to play for us when Reggie (Wayne) went down,” said Hasselbeck. “Some of them stepped up and created opportunity for themselves.”
He was surprised at areas Luck hit him on such as how to keep a strong arm late in the year or how to approach games on Thursdays or Mondays, matters sometimes known best within a certain fraternity.
“You think about the amount of experience Matt’s gained, just having him in the building was good,” said Pagano. “Matt had gotten a team to the Super Bowl, and getting him here was great for our team.
“Matt knows the game inside and out and could troubleshoot. Matt made sure all the (details) were executed in everything we were doing. When he’s not taking reps, he’s watching Andrew closely – where his eyes were, what he was doing.”
Backups Drew Stanton and Hasselbeck have seen Luck (click here for photo gallery of his rookie year win at Tennessee) produce 22 starting wins, 8,196 yards and 46 touchdowns to start a career, some of history’s finest totals.
“You work so hard each day to be ready to go, the team’s going to count on you and it’s hard work,” said Hasselbeck. “It’s also not fulfilling to leave after the game because you worked so hard during the week. It’s almost like a preacher preparing a sermon all week and when Sunday service comes, you’re sitting there listening.
“I’ve found a lot of rewarding experiences in watching guys I work with succeed. That was rewarding for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Pagano is trying to reach that same arena where Hasselbeck has ventured.
“When you have a guy like Matt watching things take place, it’s a great resource,” said Pagano. “He’s a pro through and through.”
QUOTE-UNQUOTE (Matt Hasselbeck on the importance of a running game):
“It’s very important. Really being able to run in the ‘four-minute’ situation when a defense knows you’re going to run and you still do it, it’s important. It’s hard to say that as a quarterback (sometimes), but it’s true. History doesn’t lie. In my experience, the years I threw for a ton of yards, we didn’t win a ton of games. It’s great for Fantasy Football, but that’s about it.”