INDIANAPOLIS — Brian Schottenheimer has worked with some impressive quarterbacks as he enters his 17th season as an NFL coach in 2016.
So perhaps it's no surprise that upon agreeing to become the Indianapolis Colts' new quarterbacks coach in January, one of the first calls Schottenheimer made was to the flip phone of Andrew Luck.
Schottenheimer had only met Luck in passing once or twice before, but already knew the caliber of player he was going to get a chance to work with.
And, after about five months on the job — the last month or so spent in the offseason workout program — Schottenheimer says Luck has been as advertised.
"You hear how smart he is, but you really don't realize until you're in the room and you're around him how truly smart he is," Schottenheimer told reporters Tuesday. "I don't mean just smart in terms of knowing plays but how he sees things. He's got unbelievable football IQ."
Luck is undeniably coming off the most trying season of his career, battling through injuries to start just seven games. In those contests, the Stanford product threw just 15 touchdowns to 12 interceptions and completed 55 percent of his throws.
Those numbers may pale in comparison to Luck's 2014 MVP-caliber season, in which he posted career highs in completions (380), passing yards (4,761; a franchise record), passing touchdowns (40), quarterback rating (96.5) and completion percentage (61.7). But Schottenheimer knows having a fully-healthy Luck back in 2016 means it'll only take a few tweaks here and there to get him back to where he knows he can be.
"Quite honestly I was really, really pleased with how well he just reads progressions and can eliminate things quickly," Schottenheimer said of Luck's 2015 season before he was injured. "I've been a big fan of his for a long time. There are always those couple games and throws you'd like to have back but you see the ability. You see a guy that's got obviously got a huge, huge, huge career ahead of him."
That player-coach relationship will be critical for Rob Chudzinski, who is entering his first full season as the Colts' offensive coordinator in 2016.
Having Schottenheimer around gives Chudzinski a constant presence to continue to harp on the little things — the fundamentals, the footwork, the decision making — with the quarterbacks on a daily basis while the offensive coordinator is free to focus on the bigger picture.
Chudzinski and Schottenheimer have already taken advantage of their time together this offseason, and have been working on piecing together a solid plan for the year.
"The great thing about this spring is that we had a little time to really get together on, not just with Brian and myself, but all the coaches, so we're all on the same page with the things we want, how we want to teach and approach things," Chudzinski said. "That's the exciting thing going forward. Like I said, it's not really going to be about the plays, the Xs and Os, those will evolve. We'll see what our guys do best and tailor what we do to that. Just having all these guys and a great coaching staff, I can't be more excited."
When it comes to Luck himself, Chudzinski, a former offensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns, where he served as head coach in 2013, has spent a considerable amount of time studying the former No. 1-overall pick since he was hired as a special assistant to Colts head coach Chuck Pagano in 2014.
Chudzinski, who assumed control of the Colts' offensive coordinator duties on an interim basis midway through the 2015 season, said that with Luck, his ability to extend plays is perhaps his biggest "catch-22" that he hopes to work on this offseason.
The big-yardage potential that comes out of those off-schedule plays are always a plus, but the offensive staff and Luck are working on figuring out exactly when to take those chances, and when to cut their losses and play it safe.
"Obviously the things – the reason he was out last year and us making sure that he's protected and he protects himself — that's been one of the focuses of the offseason, is how are we going to protect him better and how is he going to protect himself better?" Chudzinski said. "Then he has his list of things from a fundamental standpoint that he wants to keep growing on, working on and improve at.
"With Andrew, you don't have to tell him too much about it," Chudzinski continued. "He's already on it. He's phenomenal in what he does and the plan that he has for himself that he develops for himself to get better."
As far as Schottenheimer is concerned, sitting out more than half the season last year was more than enough motivation for Luck to come back strong in 2016.
That competitive spirit — the same attitude Schottenheimer saw coaching the likes of Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers — gives the offensive staff full confidence in No. 12 in 2016.
"Nobody wants to be sitting over there watching, especially when you're a great competitor," Schottenheimer said. "I think the turnovers will happen from time to time. There are a few decisions of course from last year he looks at and is like, 'Man, I shouldn't have done that,' but I think that's all a part of the process. I think he grew a lot last year just by actually being able to sit back and watch a little bit."