Today, the Denver Broncos are interviewing the guy that many believe the franchise hopes will be their next head coach; Gary Kubiak. Kubiak spent the last season as the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
Before that, he was the head coach of the Houston Texans from 2006-13 and led them to their first playoff win as a franchise. However, the Texans fired Kubiak in 2013 and ended up finishing dead-last in the NFL--good enough for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, which they used to select the injury bug-bitten Jadeveon Clowney.
Kubiak's downfall in Houston came when his quarterback, Matt Schaub, imploded, which created a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team. Many surmised that by that point, it was too late. Kubiak had lost the belief of his players.
For a head coach to be successful, his players must "buy in" to his philosophy and leadership. It didn't help matters that Kubiak's health was compromised, likely due to stress, which resulted in him collapsing on the sidelines with "pre-stroke symptoms".
Kubiak's star burned out in Houston. But what he accomplished for the fledgling franchise, who came into the league in 2002 as an expansion team, cannot be understated. For the first time, the Texans were a winning football team.
But Broncos fans understand that with success comes expectations. And when the Texans made it to the post-season tournament two years straight, it created a pressure cooker that ultimately compromised Schaub and subsequently, Kubiak. Schaub couldn't handle the heat in Kubiak's kitchen, and arguably, neither could the head coach.
Now, if Kubiak gets hired in Denver, who has an extensive history with the Broncos, both as a player and a coach, he'll likely bring a scheme and philosophy that is very different than that of Adam Gase and Peyton Manning.
Kubiak is a disciple of Mike Shanahan. Shanahan's Broncos took the NFL by storm in the mid-to-late '90s with a zone-blocking West Coast offense that centered around the running game. It was a wildly successful system. At the time.
It led to back-to-back Super Bowl championships, Terrell Davis' 2,000-yard season, and year-after-year of Broncos running backs rushing for 1,000+ yards. Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns, and Tatum Bell all had career numbers in Shanahan and Kubiak's system.
But the scheme that Kubiak learned from Shanahan is fundamentally different than the Manning offense. Manning likes the "no huddle" and to work out of the shotgun and lead with the pass. The pocket becomes ground-zero for everything he does.
Before the snap, Manning surveys the defense and if he doesn't like what he sees, he'll audible to another play. There is some play-action involved in Manning's approach, but it comes largely out of the shotgun and/or pistol.
With Kubiak, the offense does huddle (mostly) and takes on a "run-first" priority. And as such, he utilizes the run to set up the pass through various forms of play-actions, roll-outs and bootlegs. But does this approach require mobility in the quarterback, like John Elway, Jake Plummer and even Jay Cutler?
It certainly helps, but it's not a deal-breaker. Look no further than Matt Schaub. Schaub is athletic, but he's not exactly the poster boy for mobility. You're not going to see him running the read-option. But under Kubiak, he eclipsed the 4,000-yard passing mark in each year that he started all 16 games (three).
In all three of those seasons, he also eclipsed the 20-touchdown mark. He averaged a completion percentage of 65.2. Now, if Schaub could accomplish these feats and make it to the Pro Bowl twice (2009 and 2012), imagine what Manning could do.
Manning and Kubiak, working together, could produce phenomenal results. Would Manning eclipse the 50-TD mark and 5,000 yards? Probably not. But offensive firepower would not be in short supply, especially when you factor in C.J. Anderson.
In Kubiak's system, Anderson could become one of the NFL's top rushers. Look what Kubiak did for Arian Foster's career; a guy who went undrafted, just like Anderson. It could be triumvirate made in football heaven.
Of course, it would require Manning's willingness to adapt his approach somewhat and be open to change. It's how the Broncos protected Elway, late in his career, and at this point in Manning's journey, he's likely open to anything that keeps him healthy for a full 16-game season.
Could Manning and Kubiak work together successfully? I don't doubt it at all. The question is whether Kubiak is willing to hitch his horse to Manning, who has two years (at best) left in his career, rather than blowing it up and starting over with Brock Osweiler, who represents a clean slate of sorts and might come with no preconceived notions or strings attached.
The Broncos have officially hired Gary Kubiak.