Gary Kubiak has endured some rough seasons as a head coach. This shouldn’t have to be one of them.
While the Denver Broncos have jumped out to a 6-0 start under Kubiak’s leadership in his first year back with the team, the easiest stretch of the schedule is over. And while players and coaches alike are saying all the right things ahead of Denver’s marquee matchup against Green Bay on Sunday night, it’s hard to imagine anyone in their right mind believing that the offense that has taken the field for the first six weeks of the regular season is capable of beating the Packers.
Yes, the Broncos are 6-0 and even a .500 record the rest of the way puts the team comfortably into the playoffs with an 11-5 record and yet another comfortable AFC West division wrapped up. But I’ll join the long list of those in Broncos Country to remind you that these seasons are not about regular season accolades, though you probably don’t need reminding.
All parties involved have yet to let their frustrations get the best of them, but the coaches have to be frustrated with the lack of a consistent running game, Peyton Manning has to be frustrated with his lack of practice reps and overall game play, and everyone else has to be frustrated with one of the two of them (even if they won’t admit it).
Something has to give, but with the championship-caliber defense being led by Wade Phillips right now, Denver is not about to let this become a transition year by allowing teams like the Packers, Patriots, and Bengals show them their limitations. They are determined to the cause of making Peyton Manning’s probable final season one final championship run. But how can the offense put together enough to contend with the elite of the NFL?
It’s finally time for Kubiak to make the final concession to give Manning the best shot to be a consistent, difference-making quarterback.
Don’t get me wrong; I believe whole-heartedly in Kubiak’s system. Obviously, John Elway does too. It always made plenty of sense to bring in Kubiak. Controlling the clock is good. Running the ball efficiently is good. Taking pressure off the quarterback to do it all is good. And the result of what all of that can do for your defense is all, objectively, good. Doing it with a quarterback like Peyton Manning? Stop it.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way. A few key injuries, inexperience along the offensive line and perhaps an overestimation of Manning’s athletic ability have all played a role, but the bottom line is that this is simply a case of Denver’s good intentions falling short.
Gary Kubiak is in a unique position in the NFL. Manning, while a living legend and first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, will ride off into the sunset (at least as far as Denver is concerned) at the end of this season. Kubes, on the other hand, is almost guaranteed to return. While falling short this season would be a blow for the Broncos, it won’t be the last run for Denver. It likely will be for Manning.
So if Manning wants to play out of shotgun, let him play out of shotgun. If he needs to run hurry-up, do it. If he wants to practice on Wednesdays, let him have his way. What the team is currently doing clearly isn’t working; Manning isn’t capable of running Kubiak’s bread and butter. The coach can either keep pushing that square peg into a round hole (since historically that’s always gone so well for NFL coaches who refuse to adapt to their talent base), or he can show that he’s capable of the compromise and adaptation practiced by today’s best football coaches.
Kubiak has the full support of the Denver Broncos front office well beyond this season. But he has a chance to unite his locker room and prove his value to Denver right now by putting Peyton Manning in the best position to succeed. While it’s not ideal, right now that’s Manning’s own offense. And it’s time for Gary Kubiak to do himself and his team a favor and dust it off.