MINNEAPOLIS — This is the final goodbye for Gary Kubiak. Not his first one.
Kubiak resigned as Broncos head coach on January 2, 2017 before a large press conference at UCHealth Training Center.
He returned a year later as a personnel consultant to Broncos’ general manager John Elway, only to leave in January 2019 under considerably less amicable circumstances. Elway had a verbal agreement to hire Kubiak as Vic Fangio’s offensive coordinator in 2019, only to have that arrangement fall apart because Broncos’ management balked at Kubiak’s insistence of bringing back some of his longtime offensive assistants.
Kubiak moved on to run the Minnesota Vikings offense the past two years, first as an assistant head coach in charge of the offense, then as their offensive coordinator and play caller. On Thursday, Kubiak formally announced his retirement after 36 years in the NFL as a player, position coach, offensive coordinator, head coach and personnel executive.
This time, Kubiak, 59, is done, done.
To Broncos fans, Kubiak will be remembered as the longtime backup quarterback (1983-91) to John Elway, as the right-hand offensive assistant to head coach Mike Shanahan (1995-2005) and as head coach of Denver’s Super Bowl 50 team (2015). Kubiak was involved in six of the Broncos’ eight Super Bowl appearances, including all three Super Bowl victories.
“Gary will always have a special place in our championship history,’’ Joe Ellis, the Broncos’ chief executive officer, said in a statement. “He is an outstanding coach who did a masterful job leading us to a win in Super Bowl 50, deftly navigating that season with tremendous instincts and feel every step of the way.”
Ellis was referring to how Kubiak benched a fading Peyton Manning in the second half of the 2015 season and replaced him with Brock Osweiler, who got his first starting opportunity after he was drafted three years earlier in the second round. A battered Manning finished that season with 9 touchdown passes against 17 interceptions while Osweiler went 5-2 down the stretch.
But in the second half of the regular season’s final game against the Chargers, Kubiak on a hunch went back to Manning, who inspired just enough out of the offense to complement terrific Denver defense and the Broncos made a successful postseason run that included home wins against the Steelers and Patriots, and an upset Super Bowl 50 victory against favored Carolina at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
Kubiak and the Broncos started 4-0 the following 2016 season, but minutes after a game 5 home loss to Atlanta, Kubiak suffered another severe migraine-like seizure that caused him to leave Mile High stadium in an ambulance. He struggled to finish out the season but never served as head coach again.
Kubiak went 12-4 and 9-7 in his two seasons as Broncos head coach. The Broncos haven’t had a winning record since.
"It's been the honor of my lifetime to work for 36 seasons as an NFL player and coach,’’ Kubiak said in a statement released by the Vikings. “I've been on a football field for most of my life, and now I look forward to stepping away from the game and enjoying more time with my family and friends.
"I offer my sincere thanks to the owners and fans of the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers for giving me opportunities to be a part of this great game and for treating me and my family so well over the years.
"I'll miss the competition, the planning, game days and being part of a team. But, more than anything, I'll cherish the friendships I've made along the way with players, coaches and staff. I love the game of football and will forever be its biggest fan."
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