ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Gary Kubiak was all set to stay in Baltimore, where he’d had a terrific comeback as the Ravens offensive coordinator after getting fired from his head coaching job in Houston the year before.
He turned down opportunities to interview for the head coaching vacancies with the Bears and Jets, and planned a vacation with his wife, Rhonda.
Then, his cellphone buzzed.
It was John Elway.
Cancel the sand and the surf.
Pack the skis instead.
“It was just a game-changer,” Kubiak said Tuesday after being introduced as the 15th head coach of the Denver Broncos, where he spent 13 seasons either backing up Elway at quarterback or drawing up blueprints as his offensive coordinator.
“This place is special for me” Kubiak said.
And Kubiak held a hallmark spot in Elway’s plans after the Broncos general manager parted with John Fox a day after Denver’s dismal showing in a 24-13 playoff loss to Indianapolis.
“He was at the top of the list, no question,” Elway said, stressing, “in my mind there is not a better guy to take over the Denver Broncos.”
Kubiak isn’t fixing a 4-12 jalopy with high draft picks and low expectations but rather a 12-4 team that featured an NFL-high 11 Pro Bowlers. Yet, this team showed a striking lack of fire in that playoff loss to the Colts two weeks ago when the mantra all year was about atoning for that 35-point loss to Seattle in last year’s Super Bowl.
Kubiak steps into a pressure cooker where Elway reiterated it’s always “Super Bowl or bust,” and where Fox’s 49-22 record wasn’t nearly good enough.
Kubiak, who said his health scare in 2013 taught him to rely more on those around him, didn’t flinch.
“That’s what I want to be a part of,” Kubiak said, noting he thrived in that environment of high expectations as a player from 1983-91 and then serving on Mike Shanahan’s staff from 1995-2005, coaching the Texans from 2006-13 and assisting the Ravens last year.
“If you’re working in this business, that’s the opportunity you want, to win a championship. You want to be around people where that’s the way they go about business,” Kubiak said. “So, I see that as a plus and that’s something that I welcome and I look forward to.”
So, Kubiak, 53, is once again Elway’s No. 2.
“Believe me, he is the boss,” Kubiak said. “That’s all right. I want to coach.”
When it comes to football philosophies, Elway and Kubiak are kindred spirits, though.
“John’s the most competitive human being I’ve ever been around, whether you’re playing cards or pingpong, it doesn’t matter,” Kubiak said. “I think I’m very competitive, too. That’s probably why we’re still standing in this league because if you’re not, you’re not going to hang out for very long.”
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“I know what Gary Kubiak is about,” Elway said. “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him for 30 years, had a chance to play with him and play for him. I know his philosophies and I know what he can do. I know his goals are the same as mine and that’s to win – and to win world championships.”
That’s something the Broncos haven’t done since Elway was QB and Kubiak was his offensive coordinator in 1998, when Denver won its second straight Super Bowl title.
Manning is mulling retirement after a difficult stretch run marred by a thigh injury and a dismal playoff performance.
Kubiak’s offensive philosophies are rooted in Bill Walsh’s West Coast system featuring the zone-blocking schemes that the Broncos fine-tuned in the 1990s and 2000s. But he said he’s also one to adapt to his players’ strengths.
Kubiak, who was unsuccessful in his attempt to talk Elway into putting off retirement in 1999, said he’s spoken with Manning and plans to meet with him when things slow down. He said he would welcome back the five-time MVP, who turns 39 in March, and would mesh his offensive ideas with Manning’s style.
“The offense Peyton runs, he’s tremendous at it, back there in the gun controlling the game, controlling the line of scrimmage. Nobody has ever done it better and he’s the master at it,” Kubiak said. “Actually, I’m looking forward to learning that style and that system that he has.
“We’re going to do what our team does best and what our players do best, and if Peyton Manning‘s playing, that’s what he does best.”
Notes: Kubiak hired Joe DeCamillis as special teams coordinator. Coaches expected to stay on staff are: Tyke Tolbert (receivers), Eric Studesville (running backs), Luke Richesson (strength & conditioning) and Clancy Barone (from tight ends to O-line). Kubiak is expected to bring Rick Dennison (offensive coordinator) and Brian Pariani (tight ends) with him from Baltimore.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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