ENGLEWOOD—If you are concerned about Gary Kubiak’s overall well-being following his second medical scare in three years, know that the Denver Broncos’ head coach is trying.
“The preparation’s the same,’’ said Broncos’ defensive end Jared Crick when asked to identify one thing different about Kubiak’s coaching style now with the Broncos, then when he played for him with the Houston Texans in 2012-13. “Everything that goes into getting ready, getting the guys ready to play, that’s all the same.
“Kubes a little bit more calm here. He knows he’s got a good group of guys who work hard for him, do their job and come to work every single day. I would say (otherwise) Kubes pretty much the same. You’re not going to change Kubes a whole lot. But he definitely seems a lot more calm now and seems a lot happier, too.’’
Kubiak led the Texans from 2006 until he was fired in December 2013. He has downplayed the game Monday night against the Texans as not being anything special personally, other his Broncos need to win after losing two in a row. Besides, he went through the former team bit before when he was the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive coordinator in 2014 and in the preseason last year when the Broncos and Texans met in Houston.
Maybe playing the former team is an old story for many in the NFL, but forgive Crick if he’s geeked about it. The former Cozad, Nebraska native and University of Nebraska Cornhusker was drafted by the Texans, whose coaching staff included Gary Kubiak, Wade Phillips and Bill Kollar in 2012. He played for those three coaches for two years in Houston, and the Texans for four.
For the first time since Crick left Houston to become reunited with Kubiak and the coaching gang in Denver, he will play against his former Texans on Monday night at soon-to-be-renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
“I don’t exactly know what it’s like to play a former team but I know all those guys, I know all those coaches,’’ said Crick, who starts, has 12 tackles, one J.J. Watt-like pass knockdown and a half sack through the Broncos’ first six games. “Very excited to go in there and fly around and just have fun with the team. It’s going to be a great game. You can’t ask for anything better, playing your former team on Monday Night Football.’’
Kubiak smiled when told the old playing-against-his-former-team bit had Crick excited.
“Crick doesn’t get very excited, either,’’ Kubiak said. “You all got him to talk? (Laughs). Good. I’m glad. That’s really good. No, Jared’s a really fine player. He’s playing really well for us. I drafted him there in Houston so I’m really proud of him. He’s a good, good player. He plays hard. I think we’re all excited to play, not just Crick. We’re all excited.”
There will be some Crick supporters in attendance. Cozad is a little more than a 4-hour drive from Denver.
“You’ve got a bunch of hardworking people,’’ he said. “Very blue-collar. Everybody in town worked at the factory (Tenneco, an auto parts manufacturing plant) until it closed down or somewhere around town helping the community. Very close-knit. My graduating class was maybe 70 and that was a lot in my hometown. It was good to grow up where you knew everybody, everybody looked out for you so it was a good experience.’’
Crick was along the Texans’ sidelines in a November, 2013 game when Kubiak collapsed from what was later diagnosed as a transient ischemic attack, or mini-stroke. What did Crick think when Kubiak had to be taken by ambulance to a local hospital two weeks ago following the Broncos’ 23-16 loss to Atlanta from what was diagnosed this time as a complex migraine?
“It kind of came as a shock to us,’’ Crick said. “He addressed the team after the game and you find out on Twitter that they took him to the hospital. You were kind of like, ‘What happened?’ We didn’t know anything, we were all gone out of the stadium by the time we had heard.
“(Along with) what I witnessed in Houston I was concerned, yeah, but I knew the training staff here, the doctors we have here, they were going to take good care of him. They were with him the whole time, so he was in good hands. I did think knowing what happened to Kubes in Houston, and then going through it this time, they kind of had a heads-up instead of not knowing what it was the first time. We knew he was in good hands, we knew he was going to come back. We’re ready to roll again.’’
When you grow up in small town Nebraska, familiarity means something to a guy. It’s why playing the Texans is special for Crick. It’s why Kubiak, Kollar and Phillips lured Crick to Denver after he became eligible for free agency.
“They were the main factors,’’ Crick said. “No matter where Kubes went I wanted to go back and play for Kubes. Same with coach Wade and coach Kollar. Lucky enough they ended up in the same place. It’s nice for me, my hometown is only four hours down the road so coming to Denver I can play in front of more people from my hometown. And I played in Nebraska so I have a little bit more of a fan base here than I did in Houston. The planets kind of aligned at the right time for me and I’m here and I’m having a blast.’’