Midweek Musings: Life After Gary Kubiak

Hello, Bronco fans! We have an eventful week with Gary Kubiak retiring and the Broncos searching for a new coach, so there’s a lot of talk about who will take over and what the Broncos need the most. So let’s get to some of the things we should consider regarding the coaching and how it might affect the roster.

In the words of Ted Bartlett: “Ready… begin!”

1. When the Broncos first hired Gary Kubiak, I was skeptical about the hiring, but he proved me wrong by doing a masterful job of handling the struggles on offense and the quarterback position in 2015, leading up to a Super Bowl win. While things didn’t go as planned this year, I maintain my stance that the issues weren’t about scheme or play calling, but about injuries to key players and inconsistency at certain positions, which reflected on personnel evaluation, not scheme.

As for why he stepped down, one of the interesting quotes from his presser was that his brain was “wired a certain way” and that he could no longer do the job the way he wanted. We know that Kubiak liked to have a bigger role in things ranging from calling plays to making certain decisions with scheme adjustments. Given that his health issues likely meant he needed to reduce his workload, I suspect he concluded that he would have a hard time accepting it and that it was better if he step down. I respect him for that, because he recognizes that he’s the type of head coach who believes he needs to be able to do the job the way he’s used to it and, if he can’t do that for whatever the reason is, he’s better off not doing the job at all.

Compare that to, say, Mike Shanahan, who was not only wired to do the job a certain way but appeared unwilling to admit he had reached the point he couldn’t do it that way any longer. Though Shanahan didn’t have health issues like Kubiak did, Shanahan didn’t recognize his ways weren’t working and that he needed to adjust if he wanted to keep coaching. And that’s why Shanahan didn’t have a good end to his coaching career, but Kubiak will go out on a better note, where just about every player he worked with has praised him and thanked him.

2. As for who should be the next coach, I believe we should think of it as we want the best person who can handle overseeing the team and its preparations, who can communicate well with everybody and get people to work together, and who can do a good job of selling everyone from John Elway regarding the types of players he wants to the players themselves about buying into the game plans. While experience can be a good thing, it won’t matter if you can’t do a good sell job. And while it would be nice to have an offensive-minded coach in place, that means nothing if the coach can’t communicate well or doesn’t understand enough about overseeing a team.

Regarding the candidates that the Broncos want to interview thus far, I think the experience that Kyle Shanahan brings from having worked with multiple teams can be a good thing, that Vance Joseph sounds like he has the respect of many in the Broncos organization and that Dave Toub seems to bring a lot of insight into what goes into coaching. I’d be fine with giving any of the three a chance to show what they can do. What matters is how good they are at overseeing a team’s preparations, selling people on their vision and effective communication.

3. While I would love to see Wade Phillips return as a defensive coordinator, I’m open to other candidates if, for whatever reason, Phillips doesn’t return. You never know who could emerge as the next great defensive coordinator. I love Phillips, but he isn’t getting any younger, so it’s fine to keep an eye on some younger candidates who can bring a spark to the team. Just remember how much we liked the job Dennis Allen did in his one season as defensive coordinator. With that said, if Phillips does return, I’ll still be happy.

4. I see no reason to trade away either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch. While I do believe the Broncos made the right decision to keep Siemian as the starter, he has areas in which he needs further development. The same holds true for Lynch. But both quarterbacks do bring some strengths to the table and, because both are on cheap contracts, it makes no sense to part ways with either guy. You’re better off keeping both, tracking their progress and determining from there who is the better long-term option. If neither one pans out, you can draft another passer down the road.

And it goes without saying that I do not believe the Broncos should be trading for a QB and they are better off allowing Siemian and Lynch to compete for the starting job rather than paying money to a big-name veteran for a quick fix (though I’m not opposed to adding a veteran for competition). We need to remember that most of the players who will return on defense are less than 30 years old, with the exceptions of Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward, and the Broncos have been developing players behind them, plus it’s a deep draft at the cornerback position. So the “window of opportunity” for the Broncos defense isn’t closing that quickly, meaning you don’t need to rush to get a “big name” veteran QB to ensure a Super Bowl win next season.

5. While it remains to be seen if the Broncos will utilize a fullback in whatever offense they run next season, I think Andy Janovich can still have a place on this team. He’s shown he can be an effective runner and pass catcher and there’s always a place on the roster for those players. He might have a future as a short-yardage back or even a rotational back. I don’t think the Broncos will give up on him quickly.

6. The more I think about it, the more I believe it makes sense to keep Russell Okung at left tackle. It may help to keep some continuity on the offensive line and Okung gives the Broncos a quality veteran. The Broncos do need to cut Donald Stephenson before his salary guarantees kick in, though, because he’s not worth the salary he’s due and there are at least some good options at right tackle in free agency.

As for the rest of the offensive line, there’s little reason to cut ties with any of the other players, because they are all on rookie deals and have no guaranteed money in their base salaries. So there’s little risk to keeping them around to compete for roster spots. If any of them fail to impress in training camp, you can waive them at that point and not owe them anything.


8. Earlier this week, I linked to Bill Barnwell’s column about his picks for yearly awards and I don’t disagree with most of his picks. I would lean toward DeMarco Murray for Comeback Player of the Year, but Jordy Nelson (who Barnwell picked) is a deserving candidate. I also wouldn’t be upset if Ezekiel Elliott shared the Offensive Rookie of the Year award with Dak Prescott. Finally, I’d lean toward Matt Ryan getting Offensive Player of the Year on top of a deserving MVP award. As for other awards, I agree with Bill’s choices (Von Miller as DPOY, Jason Garrett as Coach of Year, Joey Bosa as DROY).

I will add one that he didn’t mention: Executive of the Year. There are three who I think are most deserving of the recognition:

Reggie McKenzie, Oakland: Were it not for Derek Carr’s season-ending injury, the Raiders might have won the AFC West. And while we are trained to hate the Raiders, we must give credit where it’s due to McKenzie for being patient and building a playoff contender. I wasn’t a fan of the Kelechi Osemele deal, but there’s no doubt he’s been an excellent fit on the offensive line and McKenzie’s draft picks are paying bigger dividends.

Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta: There was a point that I wondered if Dimitroff had a future with the Falcons, but he approached free agency and the draft well this past season. Alex Mack was one of the best free agent signings this offseason and Keanu Neal turned out to be well worth the pick the Falcons used to take him.

Jerry and Stephen Jones, Dallas: Some people raised their eyebrows at the selection of Ezekiel Elliott, but it proved to be the right pick. And while we may wonder what might have happened if the Cowboys had traded up for Paxton Lynch, Dak Prescott was a good pick. Plus the Cowboys played free agency wisely, despite tight cap space, and are approaching the point that cap space will no longer be an issue.

Those are the three that I would consider. I’ll leave it up to everyone here… who would you pick?

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.