One season after winning Super Bowl 50, Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak is reportedly set to step down.
Perhaps somewhat lost among the interest in Saturday’s College Football Playoff were rumblings that Gary Kubiak might be resigning as Denver Broncos head coach. Kubiak, 55, himself did little to quell such speculation with vague remarks during the past week when asked about changes he might make to his staff after the season.
“I love this league. I love the Broncos. I love this work. I’m all in on the Raiders right now,” Kubiak told reporters, including the Denver Post‘s Cameron Wolfe. “There will be time for reflection and all of that stuff next week.”
And so today is likely going to be Gary Kubiak's final game as Broncos HC, league sources have told ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 1, 2017
Apparently, “all that stuff” includes stepping down as Broncos coach. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Kubiak is likely to resign, largely due to his family having concerns about his health.
Earlier this season, Kubiak was hospitalized following the Broncos’ Week 5 game against the Atlanta Falcons with what was eventually diagnosed as a “complex migraine ” that resulted in weakness and extreme fatigue. Kubiak ended up missing Denver’s Week 6 Thursday night game versus San Diego, with special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis filling in as interim coach.
That wasn’t the only health scare of Kubiak’s coaching career. In 2013, as head coach of the Houston Texans, Kubiak collapsed on the field while going to the locker room for halftime. Many feared he had suffered a heart attack, but Kubiak was eventually diagosed with a mini-stroke or a Transient Ischemic Attack. He didn’t coach the following week, and coached the Texans’ next two games from the coaches’ booth.
After stepping down as Texans head coach following the 2013 season, his family was split on whether or not he should return to work. But he took the offensive coordinator position with the Baltimore Ravens for one season before being hired as Broncos head coach.
Going into Week 17 and a matchup with the Oakland Raiders, the Broncos have had a disappointing follow-up to their Super Bowl championship. At 8-7, with a possible 8-8 or 9-7 record, Denver won’t make the playoffs and the toll of the season has apparently compelled Kubiak to re-evaluate his health and his desire to continue as head coach.
Several Broncos offensive coaches were going to be dismissed. Now with Kubiak's apparent resignation, more coaches gone as well. #9sports
— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) January 1, 2017
Reportedly, part of Kubiak’s decision to step down is based on an unwillingness to make staff changes, as general manager John Elway was seeking after the season ended. But according to Schefter, Kubiak’s health is the primary factor in the decision as the demands of the job have worn him down and his family is asking him to retire.
If Kubiak does step down as expected, how will the Broncos replace him? There are three in-house candidates, according to several reports. Is Joe DeCamillis in the mix after serving as interim coach in Kubiak’s absence?
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips seems like a natural choice. Phillips, 69, was previously the Broncos head coach during the 1993 and 1994 seasons, replacing Dan Reeves. He has also been a head coach with the Buffalo Bills (from 1998 through 2000) and Dallas Cowboys (2007 through 2010). However, Phillips’ contract expires after this season and Elway may have been ready to let him go. Will he prefer someone younger as his head coach?
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport brings up another possibility in Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
Had the #Broncos not brought in Gary Kubiak 2 years ago, they likely would’ve hired now-#Dolphins DC Vance Joseph. Keep an eye on him in DEN
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 1, 2017
Elway reportedly wanted several changes on the offensive coaching staff, so the guess might be that he prefers an offensive-minded coach, which is what motivated Kubiak to replace John Fox after the 2014 season. However, defense has been extremely important to the Broncos’ success during the past two seasons, which includes a Super Bowl championship. So Elway might not want to tinker too much with what is currently working.
Yet that could also motivate him to hire an offensive coach that could keep most of the defensive coaching staff, if they choose to stay.
One name that will surely come up is Kyle Shanahan, currently the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator. Hiring the son of Mike Shanahan, who coached the Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998, would certainly hold some appeal and make a nice story. Shanahan has been an offensive coordinator in the NFL for the past eight seasons, including on Kubiak’s staff in Houston. That might ease the transition somewhat, though Elway appears to expect some upheaval on the offensive staff.
Key to @M_Ryan02's MVP-worthy season?
His relationship w/ OC Kyle Shanahan.
Ryan & Shanahan sit down w/ @MikeSilver.https://t.co/QNA1EfKuvJ
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 1, 2017
But Shanahan wouldn’t just be a sentimental choice. The Falcons rank second in the NFL in total offense this season. He figures to be a top candidate for several openings throughout the NFL, notably the Los Angeles Rams’ head coaching. So Elway will have some competition for Shanahan’s services, if that’s the guy he wants. The San Francisco 49ers are reportedly ready to broom out general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly. Could they bring on Mike Shanahan as GM, who might then hire his son as head coach?
According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, a Shanahan regime in San Francisco won’t happen. But until those positions are officially filled, speculation will likely continue to raise it as a possibility. In which case, Elway might want to jump on Kyle Shanahan as quickly as possible, if that’s the direction he chooses to pursue.