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After a one-and-done trip to the postseason, the Denver Broncos have found a new head coach.
Former Houston Texans coach and more recently Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was named John Fox’s successor on Monday. Kubiak played quarterback for the Broncos and was the backup to current general manager John Elway during the team’s heyday in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Kubiak. Here are five things to know about the hire.
Kubiak’s resume includes a record under .500
Kubiak compiled a 61-64 record as the head coach of the Texans from 2006 to 2013, including two 8-8 campaigns and a total of three seasons with a finish of better than .500. His Texans reached the playoffs twice, and Kubiak is 2-2 in those postseason appearances.
After getting the axe after a 2-14 finish in 2013, Kubiak was hired to take over the Ravens’ offensive coordinator position. This season, Baltimore finished as the 12th-best offense in the league, averaging more than 364 yards and 25.6 points per game. Justin Forsett was the centerpiece of the offense, which also included a deep-passing game featuring Torrey Smith and Steve Smith.
Getting his dream job
Kubiak played quarterback for Denver from 1983-1991 and served as an assistant under Mike Shanahan from 1995 to 2005 before moving onto Houston. As an assistant, he helped none other than Elway for four years.
This has to be Kubiak’s dream job, especially since he opted not to interview for other head coaching vacancies because he seemed content staying in Baltimore. However, he could not resist this opening and the chance to come home and be in charge of his former team.
A return to Shenahanigans?
Given he comes from the Shanahan coaching tree, perhaps we’ll see the 2015 version of the Broncos resemble those championship teams Elway used to play for. Last year in Baltimore, we saw the Ravens utilize the strong running game in the one-cut and the zone-blocking scheme, which helped Elway win two Super Bowl rings as a player.
C.J. Anderson was the team’s best back down the stretch of the season. Ronnie Hillman was effective before getting hurt and former second-round pick Montee Ball may find himself as a more viable option in this new scheme.
Like Steve Smith in Baltimore and Andre Johnson in Houston, Demaryius Thomas will fill in as the X receiver, which means a lot more productivity for the superstar wide receiver, who by the way is due for a new deal.
What about Peyton?
In an interesting twist, Kubiak had no interest in bringing Peyton Manning to Houston when he was at the helm of the team and Manning was a free agent. Manning reportedly wanted to go to Houston, too, which makes the situation all the more bizarre. Instead, Kubiak opted to leave the team in Matt Schaub‘s hands.
Manning is guaranteed $19 million in 2015, so his return to Denver is not a lock. He’s under contract, but Elway and Kubiak must decide if the veteran has enough gas in the tank for one more run. If not, is Brock Osweiler the answer?
Manning might also decide he’d rather hang up the cleats after a ninth one-and-done postseason, one in which a loss to Indianapolis essentially erased another AFC West title and earning the No. 2 seed in the conference. Perhaps Manning will decide Kubiak isn’t the coach he wants to play for.
Taking over a contender
Kubiak took a rebuilding sort of job with Houston and — with a capable Schaub behind center — had the Texans competing among the AFC heavyweights about five years later. This situation, however, is not at all like that.
The Broncos boast a veteran-laden squad coming off a fourth consecutive AFC West crown. If Manning stays, the Broncos are definitely in a win-now mode, given the quarterback’s age as well as some of the contracts allotted to the veteran players.
How will Kubiak handle a situation where he’s expected to win right away? Will Elway be quick to pull the trigger if the team regresses in the first year? Or did Elway pick a coach that he knew would be up to this sort of task?
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