ANDERSON, Ind. —When Brian Schottenheimer first got the opportunity to work with Andrew Luck earlier this year, he knew he had a quarterback with the skills to play the position at an elite level.
But even the elite quarterbacks need to re-evaluate what they're doing from a fundamental standpoint from time to time, so Schottenheimer and Luck began refining things from the ground up, giving the fifth-year Stanford product a fresh perspective on the little things.
Now that they're in training camp, Luck said he can tell a difference.
"It has been back to basics," Luck said. "Footwork ground-up certainly. Some habits like anything are hard to kick in a sense and some come a little faster than others, but again that's why you practice, that's why you do individual, that's why you do drill work during special teams, that's why you focus on feet before anything else."
Schottenheimer was hired Jan. 18 after spending the previous season as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at the University of Georgia. Prior to that, he was an offensive coordinator with the New York Jets (2006-2011) and St. Louis Rams (2012-14), and he had previous stops as quarterbacks coach with the Washington Redskins (2001) and San Diego Chargers (2002-05).
Over the years, Schottenheimer has learned how eliminating the negative plays is so critical at the quarterback position. Keying in on the fundamentals, in turn, helps achieve that goal.
"(Taking) care of the football, I think, is obviously really important," Schottenheimer told reporters in May. "This spring has been a lot about fundamentals, just kind of going back and re-teaching some basic fundamentals that they all know. It's just good and fun to go through and drill those things."
Last season, Luck — who only played in seven total games due to injuries — struggled more than he had in previous years with turning the ball over, throwing 12 interceptions; 4.1 percent of his passes thrown in 2015 were intercepted, about 40 percent more than his previous career high of 2.9 percent in his rookie season.
After watching Luck's performances from last season, Schottenheimer said he felt Luck "learned a lot last year" by being forced to watch the game from the sidelines.
"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."
Luck is also working on keeping the ball secure as he carries it outside the pocket, to eliminate the possibilities of being stripped by a defender. Head coach Chuck Pagano said Luck has never been loose with the football, "but there's been a heightened sense of urgency as far as keeping it seated up here and not loose and having two hands on it."
"Guys start to escape, and they have to extend plays, a lot of those guys will have that ball sitting right down here," Pagano said, as he motioned with his hands. "It's hard enough keeping it from strip sacks when you've got it up here, but he's doing a nice job of that."
After signing the most lucrative contact in NFL history last month — a six-year deal worth $140 million — one might think Luck, a three-time Pro Bowler in his four NFL seasons, wouldn't be too receptive to a new coach coming in and changing his approach from a fundamental standpoint.
But both Pagano and Schottenheimer have said Luck has completely bought in.
"Andrew is one of those guys that – he doesn't question anything. He buys into everything. He trusts everybody," Pagano said. "He's a really smart guy. And when you tell him, 'Hey, you do A, B and C you're going to take your game to this level.' He's going to give everything he has and listen to that coaching and submit to that coaching and buy into that and he's done that.
"You can see from footwork leaving center, pocket presence, the way he carries the football in the pocket, the way he's taking care of it and then the decision making process outside of the fundamental part has been great."