It isn’t easy for a new head coach to quickly win over a team in any sport.
Gary Kubiak, of the Denver Broncos seemed to do just that though as he gets set to lead his team into Super Bowl 50 on Sunday during his first year as head coach with the organization.
Kubiak got his head coaching start with the Houston Texans, but was fired with just three games remaining in the 2013 season after eight years with the team.
He complied a record of 61-64 with the franchise, winning two AFC South championships and a Coach of the Year award in the process.
“First off, my years in Houston were good years building a franchise,” Kubiak said this week. “I’m proud of those years. We had a tough one the last one. I think everybody understands that.”
He spent a year with the Baltimore Ravens afterwards, serving as their offensive coordinator before an old friend gave him a call.
Kubiak spent nine seasons backing up executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway during his playing career in Denver and once Elway called, it seemed like a no-brainer to rejoin the organization.
Not only did Kubiak spent his playing career in Denver as a backup, he was also the Bronco’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 1995-2005, winning two Super Bowl titles with his old teammate.
“I think one of the greatest things that happened to me in this business was getting a chance to go to Baltimore,” Kubiak said about his time in Baltimore and how he got to Denver. “It’s a great organization. Being able to go to work for (Ravens Head Coach) John (Harbaugh), with (Ravens General Manager & Executive Vice President) Ozzie (Newsome), with (Ravens Owner) Steve Bisciotti, I know it was just a year for me, but it was a very powerful year for me as a coach and it helped me transition back into this opportunity, which obviously, John (Elway) and Mr. Bowlen have given me. It’s a crazy business. You just keep working, stay true to who you are and try to enjoy it along the way. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”
So on January 19 2015, Elway hired Kubiak to a four-year contract.
It didn’t take long for the new coach to make a positive impression on his players.
“I think the No. 1 thing (is) first off, I came to a team that was successful,” Kubiak said when reflecting on his move to the Broncos. “For me, it was about coming in and finding out what they were about, who the leaders were, those types of things – the mindset of the football team. So, I tried to approach it that way. I remember the first day; I called every player on the football team when I came here. I told them I was proud to be a part of them (and) that I had a lot of respect for what they had done in the past. So, that was my approach, and then we went to work.”
His laid back, personable approach was not lost on the players.
“That’s exactly what he is – a normal, laid-back, honest, straight-ahead guy,” cornerback Aqib Talib said. “He just be straightforward with us, tell us what he expects out of us and that’s what we give him. He’s a real laid-back coach. He lets us be men and he run our team perfectly.”
“It was big,” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said of their first conversation. “Since day one when [Coach] Kubiak has come into the Broncos organization, he’s welcomed everyone with open arms. He called everyone. I’ll tell you what – I’ve been on a lot of teams and this is definitely a family-oriented team. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
So what did Kubiak try to express with his first phone call with the team?
“He was just saying that he was proud to be the coach of the Denver Broncos,” Sanders said. “He’s excited about working with us and lets try and win a championship. And here we are almost a year later and we’re getting ready to win a championship.”
“He just came in and he said he was going to let us be us,” Sanders added. “He wasn’t going to change our team and change our personality. He accepted our personality, but our work was demanded, and we just came in and we worked. Since April, this is where we wanted to be, we worked hard, we pushed ourselves, but we still had fun like we did with (Bears Head Coach John Fox) Fox and other coaches. That’s a good thing about that, Kubiak accepted that, and he adapted to that, and we got the work done for him for sure.”
“I think as a coach, anywhere you’re at, anywhere you’re working, you want to get it done for the ownership and the organization and the players,” Kubiak said. “[Getting fired from Houston] was disappointing. Did I think I would get another opportunity? I don’t know, but I knew I loved the work, and I felt good about continuing to go. I think I’ve got a lot of time left in me. I just think I was very fortunate (that) my next opportunity came at a very special place. And I’ve said that over and over again, but me working for (Ravens Head Coach) John (Harbaugh) – for that organization, for (Ravens General Manager and Executive Vice President) Ozzie Newsome, for (Ravens owner) Steve Bisciotti – really helped me as a football coach watching them operate, watching them do things and have a chance to come back here with John, I feel very fortunate.”
“I just feel fortunate that I have gotten another chance – a lot of coaches don’t.”
Photo credits Barry Lively @LivelyNow
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