Dove Valley was a depressing sight on Monday, as players cleaned out their lockers and expressed feelings of opportunities lost. That was before the John Fox era abruptly ended. Then, regret quickly turned into uncertainty.
Tuesday, John Elway made it clear that the Broncos priorities had not changed. Rather, it was time to refocus on the goal at hand.
“There is no plan B,” Elway said as he addressed the media Tuesday afternoon with a grin. “Plan A is still the same and that is to win the world championship.”
Denver’s top executive expressed a disconnect with his head coach. It’s time for that to change. It’s time for Elway to bring in a familiar face.
That’s why Gary Kubiak is the candidate Elway wants and needs.
It’s becoming obvious that the former Broncos player and coach is the right field general for the Broncos job. He understands, as does Elway, what it takes to lose and win championships, he possesses the coaching experience inside and outside of the Broncos, and his style fits the makeup of current team.
Elway heaped on the philosophy differences between him and Fox on Tuesday afternoon, saying, “John and I disagreed how to get to the next level.” Whether that was the offensive scheme or personnel, we’ll never know. But it’s evident that Fox wanted more power than he was originally given. The ol’ ball coach was overstepping his bounds.
Hiring Kubiak may seem like a power play by Elway; it might seem like he’s hiring a “wingman” to do his bidding. But the opposite is true. Kubiak has shown that he can run a team strictly as a coach; all he’s interested in is coaching. Kubiak isn’t interested in politics of the NFL. That’s exactly what this team needs, a separation of church and state.
The general manager needs to focus on scouting, contract negotiations and personnel. The coach needs to create game plans, instill discipline and develop young talent. This is the relationship that Kubiak and Elway can develop because both are only interested in what they do best. Kubiak will coach; Elway will manage.
Tuesday, Elway went on to say that his pursuits of championships both as a player and as a general manger have left him with unique insights. That’s a common thread shared with Kubiak.
When Elway explained what he is looking for in the next head coach, it was hard not to think that he was describing Kubiak specifically.
“I look for a guy that’s very smart, that’s competitive, that is aching to win world championships like I am,” the Broncos general manager explained. “And I think there are a lot of things. You want to get like-minded people. I think that helps a lot, or even to have a great conversation, agree to disagree, but come out with the right decision for what’s best for the Denver Broncos, which is our main goal.”
Elway needs Kubiak – not because of their obvious bond as player and coach, but because Kubiak has shown he can command the respect of a NFL roster. He has shown that he can get the most out of his players. Undoubtedly, that’s been missing under Fox.
Elway said he could live with ending the season “kicking and screaming,” but that wasn’t the case the last two years. Fox didn’t show he could light a fire in the belly of his players when it mattered most. While Kubiak may not run up and down the sidelines screaming (see Urban Myer), he has shown as a coach, and player, that a competitive fire isn’t lacking within him; he expects that from his players.
Kubiak has experienced the ups and downs of the NFL since his glory days with the Broncos, but seems to be a better coach for it. He has taken his licks and bounced back nicely, never wavering from his intended goals. His steady hand is not the perfect fit for the final chapter of the Book of Manning, it’s the needed guidance for the development of Brock Osweiler.
It is hard to think that Manning would disapprove of Kubiak with the success he has had at every stop in his 21-year coaching career. He has historically led offenses that are highly balanced and effective in the run game.
This season, Kubiak proved once again that he can get the best out of his roster and quarterback. He helped revitalize Steve Smith Sr.’s career and helped return the Ravens to a rushing attack after losing Ray Rice to a season-ending suspension. Baltimore finished the regular season ranked eighth in the league in rushing yards per game and a respectable 13th ranked passing yards per game. None of their major offensive statistical categories dipped.
Before Fox was dismissed, Kubiak stated on Sunday that he was staying in Baltimore despite several inquiries. As of this morning, however, reports are surfacing that Elway has asked for permission to talk to his former backup. Despite Kubiak’s previous comments, it is clear that his history with the Broncos and the new opening has changed things.
“We are going to look at everyone, look at everybody’s run and whether or not they will fit and make the best decision for the Denver Broncos,” Elway said on Tuesday. “It’s hard to say anything right now. I’m not going to get into the relationship I have with different people; there are some options out there that I know a lot about.”
Kubiak is not just a sentimental/return to former glory story. He is simply and unequivocally the best choice for the job now and well into the future, with or without Manning at the helm.
One thing remained clear and paramount on Tuesday and that was the necessity for the grit, tenacity and most importantly the intelligence needed to win championships. Elway and Kubiak have reached that pinnacle of success before, twice.
Elway cannot wear every hat, nor does he want to. He needs a coach that is on the same page to lead the team. He needs a coach willing to cook the stew with the ingredients he provides. Kubiak is undeniable that coach; at the age of 52, he is just what the orange and blue need.
Kubiak is Elway’s answer to realizing Plan A. Kubiak is exactly what Elway wants, but more importantly needs.