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Horse Tracks: A great coach in the making?

Anybody can hold the title of "head coach" but it takes a special breed to really own what it means to be the man in charge. And then it's about hiring the right guys to work with you.

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Good morning, Broncos Country!

Let's talk coaching.

Seven days ago our heads were spinning as the carousel was speeding up and spitting out head coaches all over the playground.

Luckily when the music actually stopped in Denver, the coach sitting on the white horse was the guy with Orange and Blue blood - Gary Kubiak. And since Tuesday, Kubiak has been recruiting his staff like crazy.

Kubiak Attack

In his three decades in pro football, Kubiak played his entire 9-year NFL career with the Broncos as backup QB to John Elway, and then 11 of his 21 coaching years as Broncos' offensive coordinator under Mike Shanahan.

Before "coming home" to Denver, Kubiak tested his head coaching chops in Houston, where he led the franchise to two playoff appearances in 2011 and 2012. But the Texans' 2-11 record in 2013 sealed his fate in his home state, and Kubiak spent this past season working some magic as the Ravens' offensive coordinator, helping Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett produce surprisingly good results.

But you already knew Kubiak was a solid choice. That's why 81 percent of you believe he can lead this team back to the Super Bowl, per our poll:

mhr kubiak poll

And it is why Kubiak was always Elway's No.1 choice.

"He's become a tremendous leader. ...To me the intelligence side that he has, really football knowledge-wise, gives us a big advantage," Elway said. "We talked about comments that this is a place that's win a championship or nothing. That's how it's always been. Nothing's changing there. And that's why it's great that Gary's experience here being a Denver Bronco, he understands that."

We've also known Kubiak and Elway have had a special relationship ever since they both arrived at mini camp in 1983.

"I had to throw next to him for a day, and after that day I called home and said, ‘I have no chance.' That's what I remember," Kubiak said of the start of his long-time friendship with the Broncos' former star quarterback-turned-GM. "Fortunately it worked out, and I was able to hang around awhile."

Very fortunately.

In fact, it is Kubiak's experience as the backup to Elway that I believe is actually his greatest asset for being our next head coach.

Aside from the popularity he gained as a player - known for consistently coming through in the clutch - as well as his brilliant "football mind," Kubiak has some coaching intangibles that were in the works way back then.

Both Elway and former Broncos coach Dan Reeves noted they knew even during Kubiak's playing days that the former Texas A&M quarterback would eventually be a head coach.

Gary was great for me on the sidelines. I can't tell you how many times he would make a suggestion to me, and he would see something normal players don't see. He was just awesome.  -Dan Reeves, Broncos head coach 1981-1992.

"I knew when I played with Gary, the way he wenabout meetings...he wanted to be a coach," Elway recalled. "How he handled meetings, the notes he took in meetings, showed me that when he was done playing, he wanted to be a coach."

Likewise, Reeves knew his backup QB was practically a coach even while wearing pads.

"Gary was great for me being on the sideline," Reeves is quoted as saying in Brian Howell's 100 things Broncos fans should know and do before they die. "He used to keep all the statistics - what defense they played, what the coverage was... I can't tell you how many times Gary Kubiak would make a suggestion to me and he would see something that normal players don't see. He was just awesome, and I knew he was going to be a great coach."

(*editor's note: for those who remember my Jimmy Valvano Gene Index last week, that quote is making me giddy with anticipation of Kubiak's potential for in-game adjustments. So I'm changing his VGI to a solid B+ ... because, of course, I can't give an A until it's been earned!)

Anatomy of a head coach

There is a misperception in the coaching world that anyone can be the head coach - just work your way up through the ranks and you'll be ready.

This couldn't be further from the truth. Those cut out to be head coaches certainly need - and benefit from - experience in the ranks, but not everyone who is a position coach or a coordinate has the bigger vision needed to oversee it all.

1. Make the tough calls.

The anatomy of a good head coach includes not only a brilliant football mind that can put together a theoretical game plan but also an analytical mind for making the tough decisions - breaking down a team's performance post-game and figuring out how to alter practices, schemes, players, in-game adjustments, etc.

The key phrase being, "making the tough decisions."

Many position coaches and coordinators are masterminds with the Xs and Os. But it's the head coach who ultimately has the responsibility for deciding how those Xs and Os are put into practice during the week, during the game and throughout the season. And such decisions require an accountable leader not afraid to make decisions that may not be popular with players or coordinators but prove to be solid choices more often than not.

Kubiak has been exuding confidence and accountability since his days as the backup QB -  evident in his offenses that improved and flourished under his guidance as well as in his tough calls. Even the criticism that he didn't offer Peyton Manning a job with the Texans in 2012 is one Kubiak is happy to explain.

"With organizations there are so many things in putting a football team together. It's not about ‘yes' on this guy, or ‘no.' It's not that easy," Kubiak said Tuesday.

To get Manning, the Texans would have had to get rid of two or three great players to fit Manning under the salary cap. In hindsight, maybe it would have been a good move given Manning's outstanding return to football in 2012 following four neck surgeries, but it's easy to see why that kind of gamble wouldn't be the right choice for every team, especially one that needed several really good players rather than one possibly excellent player.

2. Lead the team

Being a good leader isn't about imposing one's own style - even if it's good will. It's about recognizing when you need to be out front fighting the good fight, and when it's time to empower others to do it. It's a delicate balance and one that takes experience in getting the right timing.

Kubiak pointed out that one of the biggest coaching challenges is motivating players but it has to be done differently for different players.

"You have so many veteran players on your team and then you've got 21-year-old young men who can go out there and help you win the championship too," Kubiak said. "Obviously your football team is motivated from the leadership. That starts at the top, your leaders, your captains and the people that all these guys are looking up to. It's a group effort. It's not all about me. But it starts with me."

One of the reasons Wade Phillips has found great success as a coordinator but not as a head coach is this leadership piece.

Karl Mecklenburg, a former linebacker who played under Phillips, noted this problem, saying Phillips was a "very gifted football guy." But his inability to lead and rather give players control was costly to the entire organization's success.

"The first week he came in, he said,  ‘guys, this is your team, what do you want to do with it," Mecklenburg is quoted as saying about the shift from playing under Reeves. "From an organizational standpoint, I think it was a poor choice."

More on that later...but the point is, Kubiak doesn't have a leadership problem. Joel Dreessen answered that last week.

"I love Gary Kubiak. I'd take a bullet for that man," the former Broncos and Texans tight end told local media. "He would never let his team step on the field uninspired."

3.Win games

Ultimately, whatever pedigree and motivation a head coach has, he needs to win. Kubiak definitely understands that culture in Denver.

I can't wait to just go out there and fight the fight and believe with this city, this team, this organization.   -Gary Kubiak, head coach

"I can't wait to just go out there and fight the fight and believe with this city, this team and this organization," Kubiak said in his press conference. "I was standing there with them when they won their last championship and that's what we all work for. For me to have a chance to go out there and battle each and every day with John, with Joe, and try to go get that again, it's the chance of a lifetime."

And that there, friends, is a head coach.

Wade Phillips as DC?

As a football tactician, Phillips has been one of the best - just look at the success he's been able to cull from a much-less talented roster than that of the current Broncos (a trait, by the way, that is very desirable in a coordinator and one we were, uh, missing desperately this season, IMO).

And if Phillips indeed becomes the next defensive coordinator in Denver, Broncos fans should not lament his two tumultuous years as head coach here but rather applaud his overall success leading defenses to dominance.

Plus, with another great football mind helping the defensive line via Bill Kollar (who, it turns out once wrestled a bear...yes, a bear!) it is likely Phillips will bring the 3-4 defense back to Denver. (psst...Elway, may want to work on keeping Pot Roast immediately, if not sooner!)

Fun fact regarding Wade Phillips - In Archie Manning's last year with the Saints, Bum Phillips was head coach and son Wade was defensive coordinator.

Speaking of leadership...or lack thereof: DeftlateGate

I know we've been beating this one flat (see what I did there?), but I couldn't help it...the tweets and memes are just toooo good with this one.

For some of the funniest social media content on Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots' latest cheating scandal, check out the Indianapolis Star's compilation. If there were ever a hometown newspaper interested in this, it would the paper in Indy.

But here are a few other absolute gems:

Horse Tracks:

Denver Broncos reach out to Wade Phillips - ESPN
Having been rebuffed in their attempts to hire their first choice for defensive coordinator, the Denver Broncos continued to reach into their past to round out Gary Kubiak's coaching staff.

Kubiak's rushing scheme could bode well for Broncos
Head Coach Gary Kubiak's zone blocking has been a successful recipe for years in building a strong rushing attack, and that could bear fruit for the Broncos' running backs.

Gary Kubiak: Blood Simple
Former Broncos player and Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak is the perfect fit for the Broncos.

Pondering Peyton Manning, since it's never too early to look ahead (right?) - The Denver Post
Questions to ask about Peyton Manning for 2015.

Former head coach Dan Reeves on hiring Kubiak
Broncos former head Coach Dan Reeves, who coached both Elway and Kubiak during his tenure with the team, talks about why Kubiak is a great fit for this franchise.

Players, Kubiak start getting to know each other
New Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak has begun to make his rounds contacting players, and in turn, they're excited to begin working with him.

Friends hope that friends can win Super Bowls - Denver Broncos Blog - ESPN
And in the NFL, people hire their friends all of the time, familiarity being a powerful lure for folks trying to make high-risk decisions into low-risk ones. But those who hire a friend must also be prepared to fire a friend.

Broncos set record for home attendance
In the 2014 season, Broncos fans filled the home stands at a record rate.

Marvin Lewis, Mike Brown need to let Vance Joseph advance
It's time for Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis to step up and be heard on behalf of his defensive backs coach Vance Joseph. This isn't about the Broncos. This is about Joseph, the former University of Colorado backup quarterback, getting the promotion he has earned and deserves.

12 best social media references to Patriots' DeflateGate
DeflateGate has captivated the sports world. Here is a look at some of the best responses being thrown at the Internet.

How much would a deflated ball help Tom Brady? FTW investigates. | For The Win
The Patriots are under investigation for providing slightly deflated balls during the AFC Championship Sunday.

The winner of Tom Brady’s press conference is Gillette | For The Win
Because this scandal has brought out the seventh graders in all of us, the irony was immediately noted.

Tom Brady: The Most Overrated QB Of This Generation
Tom Brady is good, but not as good as you are lead to believe. There's plenty of evidence to show that he is the most overrated QB of this generation.

Bill Belichick on Deflategate: Top Comments, Reaction on Patriots Scandal | Bleacher Report
Four days after the Patriots beat the Colts in the AFCCG, Bill Belichick answered questions about #DeflateGate