Whether it was because he had a bad practice or because his Stanford offense was getting beaten by the defense during the session, Andrew Luck the collegian would find himself in the office of the wrong coordinator.
Luck would visit Vic Fangio – not just Greg Roman – for occasional advice on what he was doing wrong, what he could do better during Fangio's stint with the Cardinal in 2010.
“I wish I’d paid more attention to those conversations now, I guess,” Luck said on a conference call on Wednesday.
That’s because three years later, Luck and his Indianapolis Colts will be fighting for yards and scores against Fangio and the 49ers defense on Sunday afternoon at Candlestick Park. Where he once tried to pick Fangio's brain, he will now attempt to out-think him.
“His door was always open to anybody to come talk to him. Every now and then, I would have the opportunity to walk in and say, 'Hi,'” Luck said of San Francisco’s play-caller. “He was always very accommodating and very patient with probably what seemed like a brat, snot-nosed quarterback coming in and trying to learn a little bit about defense.”
So as much as this Week 3 matchup is about Luck reuniting with his former head coach at Stanford, one Jim Harbaugh, Luck’s duel with Fangio will take center stage. In a way, Fangio was Luck’s teacher, too.
“He’s a football junkie,” Fangio said of Luck on KNBR Tuesday morning, “and always willing to learn something.”
The education has paid off. Luck emerged as one of the NFL’s best rookies in 2012, racking up 28 touchdowns (including five rushing). His quarterback rating through two games in 2013 is 96.7, which is third-best in the AFC and only behind Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.
“The guy’s out going into year two. He was fabulous what he did in year one,” Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday on his conference call with Bay Area reporters. “He’s so much more comfortable and has great command of that offense and the huddle. The guy’s unflappable.”
You don’t have to tell Luck’s last head coach.
“He’s one of the top players in the league, which is no surprise,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “There’s not a lot that confuses him or rattles him.”
Disguising Fangio’s current defense would seem to help. While Luck said he didn’t pay close attention to the 49ers loss to the Seattle Seahawks – “It was on in the background” – he doesn’t see significant differences between Fangio's schemes.
“There is some carry-over, the basic shape of everything,” Luck said. “But it’s a different ballgame. The players on the Niners’ ‘D’ are unbelievable, a lot of Pro Bowl players out there, a lot of studs. We’re going to have our hands incredibly full with those guys.”
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Luck, who said he won’t have time to stop by Stanford’s game against Arizona State in Palo Alto on Saturday night, has the advantage of a familiar coach on his own sideline. Pep Hamilton, who coached quarterbacks and coordinated the offense at Stanford, joined the Colts this offseason in the latter capacity.
So it beared asking: Does Fangio know Hamilton too well?
“They’ve been a couple years removed,” Luck said. “We’re not going to blatantly call out plays that he would know.”
The ex-Cardinal quarterback added that he is less concerned with how Fangio and the 49ers game-plan him as an individual and more concerned with how they game-plan the entire Indianapolis offense, which includes another Stanford product in Coby Fleener.
“I’ve given it a little bit of thought, but it’s not going to change anything on my end,” Luck said of the mass reunion. “I’m not going to change how I prepare, the process just ‘cause coach Harbaugh, coach Fangio, coach Roman are over there. It will be fun, I guess, to see those guys. I feel very fortunate to have played under them in college.”