Normally we do game balls after a Denver Broncos win, but the only game ball that’s worth giving out today is a collective one to Gary Kubiak, thanking him for helping this franchise to three Super Bowl titles and for closing out his career with the franchise with a convincing win over those hated Oakland Raiders.
When I think about my favorite moment of Kubiak, I think back to that first Super Bowl title. I grew up in the 1980s in Northern California, so I know the ridicule Broncos fans faced from those blowout Super Bowl losses. That first title against the Green Bay Packers will also top my list of favorite sports moments.
I think back to the sideline conversation between Kubiak, Mike Shanahan and John Elway at the end of the game. Shanny was considering running the clock out and as they were mulling the options, Kubiak says let’s get that touchdown. It was an NFL Films moment that I’ll always remember.
Score a touchdown they did. Win a Super Bowl they did.
Here’s the rest of our favorite Kubiak moments.
Ian St. Clair: The memory that stands out is probably the most obscure. It was from training camp in his first season as head coach. Kubiak had his players working on field goal returns. Why in God's name did he work on something like that? "The season’s about recall," Kubiak said at the time. "You can’t stand out here every day and keep your guys out here doing those things every day, but you’ve got to throw it to them and talk about how you handle situations. There has to be great recall during the course of the season. We’re going to hit it all. We’ve got what we call ‘mock situations’ all the time where we’re putting players through mind games, in a lot of ways, and coaches."
Let’s take a painful but crucial trip back to a frigid Jan. 12, 2013 at Mile High. This is what the coach said after that game: "We were caught off guard." Look at the difference in quotes. You could see how seriously one took his job as head coach of the Denver Broncos, and how one thought winning the division was enough. We knew before but that quote illustrated without hesitation or doubt what this meant to him. It showed that Kubiak is a lifelong Bronco who bleeds blue and orange. You knew he would do whatever it took to make sure his players were prepared and would never "get caught off guard." That he would make the organization, fans, city and, most importantly, the owner proud. As the saying goes about Broncos Country, "It's not just a phrase or place, it's a way of life."
Julie Dixon: When he and Elway had a shared "private" moment on the SB50 platform and Gary said, we been winning all kinds of way, been winning all kinds of way, baby! That was so special. A private moment captured by NFL films from across the stage. Two best friends so happy.
Adam Malnati: When I was a kid growing up in Greeley in the 80s John Elway was king. Whenever we played backyard football we all wanted to be number 7. However, my little brother always pretended to be Gary Kubiak. Why? Because we loved Kubiak too. He was John's backup, but he was more than that. He was a true Bronco. Then he became an instrumental part of the back to back championships in 97 and 98. He was building his Bronco legacy. When Elway had a chance to bring him back in to be the head coach it was like a dream come true. When the team won Super Bowl 50 it cemented Kubiak's Bronco legend. As he steps away from the game it is that legend that helped bring the franchise its third Lombardi trophy that will stay with Broncos Country forever. Thanks coach. You are a true Bronco for life.
Yvonne Hew: My favorite Kubiak moment happened back in November 2015, and involves Peyton Manning too.
As we all know, Kubiak believes in an offense having tempo. Go with a quick snap count so the line can fire off the ball and prevent the defensive line from jumping the count. Thus, helping the run game and pass protection.
What we also know, is that Manning’s pre-snap routine was the total opposite. All the calls, hand signals, finger pointing and Omaha-ing was anything but the ‘call it and run it’ routine favored by Kubiak.
The experts believed Kubiak would bend his philosophy to run with Manning’s strengths, and he did early in the 2015 season. But the team’s success was due to the defense, and Manning was having the worst season since his rookie year.
Then came the turning point. On the night he broke the all-time passing record, Manning has one of the worst games of his career, playing with a torn plantar fascia. Kubiak threw Brock Osweiler in, but he'd trained the backup well, just as he trained all his other backups. Everyone believed Kubiak played his cards right, benching Manning. They had a conversation that remained private.
Kubiak must've said the right things. Because when Manning came back in Week 17, something was different. His play had improved; in fact, his style of play had changed – he was now under center and relied more on the run game and quick passing game concepts.
And we all know what happened a few weeks after that, on February 7th.
Many people believe Kubiak was responsible for the Broncos’ third Lombardi trophy just based on his actions that past November. And now, he's cemented himself in Broncos history, and we have that precious Super Bowl 50 win to cherish forever. Thank you, Coach.
Jeff Essary: My favorite Kubiak memory is a collection of small ones. I remember his first win as the Broncos' head coach against the Baltimore Ravens. In the locker room after Kubiak's speech, Aqib Talib interrupted with a gameball for 'coach Kubes' first win. Kubiak responded to calls for a speech by saying "I have one word for you: De-fense".
Watching the locker room speeches after the game was one of my favorite parts of seeing coach Kubiak in action. This wasn't the proper, professional press conference on Wednesday. These were moments of raw emotion with the players he loved to coach and that loved him. Phrases like "gut-check", "friggin grind", "so proud", "hell of a win", "we found a way" were common in these locker room speeches. That's what I'll remember most about Coach Kube and I imagine all his players will too.
Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann: I don’t have one favorite memory of Coach Kubiak. I have a favorite feeling about this player/coach/mentor/man. And that is that he absolutely loves being a teacher to his players - whether he is the head coach, the coordinator, the position coach or even the teammate. Even as the great John Elway’s understudy, Kubiak was on the sidelines helping No. 7 become GOAT (and was also a damn good backup who knew how to win. Whenever I think of Kubiak, I always think first of “Kubiak Attack” which is the phrase I remember from a headline after he won a game in place of Elway).
In all his places of work, Kubiak has made the people and players around him better. To me, that is the ultimate compliment of one’s talent. I will forever be grateful the Broncos drafted Kubiak the same year as Elway, that Mike Shanahan brought Kubes back to Denver and that Elway coaxed him back here one more time. He really is a main reason behind all three of the Broncos’ Lombardis. I truly hope Kubiak stays with this organization in some capacity because as Jess Place pointed out, he is as much a legendary Bronco as many of the great players for this team.