ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Gary Kubiak is John Elway’s No. 2 again.
The Denver Broncos general manager and executive vice president was hashing out a four-year contract with his former backup QB to become the team’s head coach, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Sunday night.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement wasn’t expected to be announced until Monday with an introductory news conference Tuesday.
Kubiak replaces John Fox, who was ousted last Monday following Denver’s stunning playoff loss to home to Indianapolis. Elway complained that Fox’s teams didn’t show enough fire in big games. Fox was hired as the Chicago Bears’ new coach on Friday.
Elway and team president and CEO Joe Ellis met with Kubiak in Houston for several hours Sunday.
Kubiak was Elway’s backup from 1983-91 and Denver’s offensive coordinator from 1995-2005 under Mike Shanahan. He helped build the blueprint for the back-to-back Super Bowls the Broncos won that capped Elway’s Hall of Fame playing career.
Hall of Fame finalist and NFL Network analyst Terrell Davis, Elway’s co-pilot on those title runs in 1997 and ’98, said: “Oh, man, if it’s Kubiak, that would be great. I’d love to see him back in Denver. John Elway said at the podium the other day that he knew what it took to win a championship. Well, who else was there when he won a championship? Kubiak.”
Kubiak, who was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator this past season, went 63-66, counting the playoffs, as head coach of the Texans from 2006-13. He had a health scare during that last season in Houston and was fired by the Texans with three games left.
Although Kubiak, 53, gets a second chance in Denver, his comeback actually began in Baltimore last season.
Under Kubiak, the Ravens improved from 30th in the league in rushing to eighth and Joe Flacco’s sacks dropped from 48 to 19. Kubiak bypassed chances to interview for the head coaching vacancies with the Bears and the Jets, saying he was happy in Baltimore.
That was before his dream job opened up last Monday.
Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr., told the AP Sunday night that he didn’t know much about Kubiak’s deep history in Denver.
“I just know he was the offensive coordinator for the Ravens last year and he did a great job,” Harris said. “I’m excited to meet him and get the season rolling.”
“From all I’m hearing, he’ll be a great hire,” Harris added. “I know he’s getting a lot of talent here and we’re ready to get rolling together.”
Kubiak will be the 15th head coach in Broncos history, and talks between him and Elway surely included discussions about Kubiak’s health. Kubiak collapsed at halftime of a Texans game in 2013 but quickly returned to the sideline.
Elway interviewed two other candidates: Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph. Two others, former Bills head coach Doug Marrone and Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, withdrew their names as it became clear that Kubiak was the heavy favorite.
Kubiak takes over a team that may or may not have Peyton Manning under center in 2015. The five-time MVP is mulling his future after a promising season turned sour down the stretch and ended unexpectedly with a 24-13 loss to his former team in the AFC divisional round.
Elway asked Manning not to make a rash decision and said he won’t need an answer for a few weeks. Manning, who turns 39 in March, is due $19 million each of the next two seasons.
If he decides to retire, the Broncos would give a long look to Brock Osweiler, whom Elway drafted in the second round in 2012 and who has served a three-year apprenticeship under Manning.
Manning pulled out of next week’s Pro Bowl because a strained right thigh hasn’t gotten much better since his season ended. He was one of the Broncos’ league-high 10 Pro Bowlers, only two of whom are pending free agents — Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas — and Elway said re-signing them were his top priorities once he found a new coach.
Kubiak is expected to bring Ravens quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison with him back to Denver. Dennison has served as an assistant with Kubiak in Denver, Houston and Baltimore. Joseph, who was Kubiak’s secondary coach in Houston, could emerge as Denver’s new defensive coordinator, too.
Among assistants who could stay in Denver include running backs coach Eric Studesville, quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp and strength & conditioning coach Luke Richesson.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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