clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

It’s never a meaningless game when players and their coach earn a win

It wasn’t the season Gary Kubiak wanted, but his likely final game as Broncos head coach was definitely the win he deserved.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of fans were calling this a "meaningless" game.

It’s only meaningless if you don’t care.

But I dare say most of us cared.

And I’m damn sure Gary Kubiak and his players cared.

So a 24-6 trouncing of division rivals - even though the Raiders had a third-string QB and would be headed to the postseason regardless of losing - means something.

It means the players cared.

It means the coach cared.

It means that when Gary Kubiak officially addresses stepping down tomorrow, we all know how much the Broncos organization - from John Elway to the players - cared to play the last game for their coach the right way.

"What you saw is a total credit to what they thought of Gary Kubiak and the way they went and won that football game," Elway said of the players.

Kubiak, of course, steered it back to the players.

"It’s just good to win. It’s good to finish the right way," Kubiak said after the game. "I did have a really good moment with the players and just told them how proud I was of them and how they played today."

The coach will finish his second year as the Broncos’ head coach 9-7, making it two winning seasons plus a Super Bowl trophy that he brought to Denver. Though this season did not end the way he or anyone wanted, it shouldn’t diminish the work Kubiak did either season.

One of those seasons involved navigating a very tricky quarterback situation with a future Hall-of-Famer, the other involved navigating a leader-less team with two inexperienced players in the team’s most important leadership position on and off the field.

No matter how much one loves to coach, that takes a toll.

And Kubiak said as much after the game.

"In all honesty, I’ve struggled this year," the 55-year-old said. "The football team, the coaches, they worked their tails off. I was so proud of where we were at one point in the season. I saw us getting better, saw us getting confident."

Kubiak noted that he anticipated the team bouncing back big after the first loss to the Chiefs where Trevor Siemian had brought the team back in the fourth quarter.

"Coming out of that Kansas City game, I thought we had a chance to blossom," he said, but added that "a lot has been learned and a lot of young players have gotten better for the future of this football team."

Although Kubiak wanted to keep the conversation today about the team and the win, the coach’s future was still the main focus of the post-game presser.

"[The locker room] was tough," he said, slightly choked up, noting that he’s had a lot of good moments in the locker room. "I’m as proud of this football team as I was of the last one last year, I know there’s a difference of a few wins there, but this is a man’s game, and these guys who do it the right way and play it the right way, I respect the hell out of them."

But just like a coach, Kubiak still wanted to talk about his team.

"It’s been a tough year, some great times," he said. "It’s tough when you feel like you’re good enough to keep playing, but you’re not. That’s the hard part right now. But we need to learn from this and move forward."

Despite the anticipated retirement announcement, it’s easy to see what a tough decision that will be for "Kubes."

"I’ve got a lot invested in this place," Kubiak said after one last attempt to get him to talk about himself. "You guys know how much I love this place, how much it’s been a part of me."

And how much you've been a part of us.

Thanks, coach.