Gary Kubiak is a Win-Win for Everyone Involved No Matter How 2019 Unfolds

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After riding the ups and downs of an 8-7-1 season, Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer had a big decision to make. Who gets to run the offense after his last pick, John DeFilippo, flamed out faster than the Hindenburg blimp; partly thanks to Zim himself?

Large dome filled with hot gas meets open flame ——>

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Once DeFilippo was gone, Kevin Stefanski got his first shot at play-calling duties to ride out the final 3 weeks of the 2018 season. He had mixed results..  A 41-point effort against Miami (they weren’t good), a 27 point game against Detroit (also not good) and then a 10 point clunker to finish the season against Chicago (they were good but their kicker sucks).

After Stefanski’s mediocre debut (running the offense of a lame-ass who lied to all of us. THANKS A LOT DEFILIPPO) Zimmer had to choose between giving Kevin the keys to the purple bus or risk losing him to another team. Zimmer opted to stick with Stefanski but made a move no one expected about a week later.

He hired Gary Kubiak as an assistant head coach/offensive analyst for 2019…. who has quite the offensive coaching resume

Yeah, THAT Gary Kubiak. The one who lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl win with 90-year-old Peyton Manning and Brock AF Osweiler. The offensive coordinator for the 1997 Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos and an assistant on two other Super Bowl winning teams. THAT FREAKING GARY KUBIAK.

This is a massive move… and a deviation from where a bunch of other organizations are moving. No Sean McVay pupil. No hotshot college coach that is probably in over his head (I’m looking at you, Kliff Kingsbury).

The Vikings basically brought in a coach who invented a scheme that every NFL team is now trying to replicate or make a part of their offense. His play-actions and QB rollouts (both strengths of Cousins) are that of legend.

Kubiak is also considered a mentor to several of the young offensive minds in the NFL right now. Don’t try to make your own brand of offensive success. Go straight to the source! This will work, right? It has to for Mike Zimmer’s sake.

And here’s how it can:

Kubiak has been coaching in the NFL since 1994. He’s seen a lot of things as a QB coach, an offensive coordinator and a head coach. He’s worked with the ELITE like Steve Young, John Elway, and Peyton Manning. He’s also worked with the UMMM…. GOOD —> BELOW AVERAGE like Joe Flacco, Brock Osweiler, and Matt Schaub.

I’m going to spare you the rest of the list because it’s hideous.

Kubiak has continually shown an ability to adapt his schemes to his personnel. His offenses finished top-10 in both yards and points 9 out of 11 seasons while offensive coordinator in Denver from ’95-’05! Imagine how much roster turnover a team has during that span and yet Denver was still always top-10 in those categories.

He moved on to Houston where he took over a recovering expansion franchise that had yet to post a season with more than 7 wins. At QB, he was graced with a ruined David Carr and a…. Matt Schaub.

Yet he was able to bust his Texans’ offenses into the top-10 in both yards and points twice during his tenure in Houston (2 of final 3 – needed 4 years to turn it around). He went to Baltimore and used Joe Flacco to arm-punt his way to 12TH in yards and 8TH in points. The Kubiak style works. It has a track record of success.

But that’s not the main thing Kubiak is known for. His offenses have thrived on zone running schemes. A scheme that needs athletic lineman, who are able to pull and move depending on the play and cut-back lane. The Vikings do not possess the talent on the offensive line to run through people. This is where the zone scheme comes into play.

Kubiak’s rushing offenses finished top-5 in yards 9 times in his first stint as offensive coordinator with the Broncos. Terrell Davis was a nobody 6-round draft pick before he ran under Kubiak’s offense.

How did Kubiak’s rushing offenses do as a head coach in Houston? Top-10 in 3 of his last 4 years.

Now, another worry I’ve heard from Vikings nation:

Will Kubiak be able to coexist with Stefanski and not interfere?

Mike Zimmer’s preference has been to have former head coaches on his staff on the offensive side of the ball. With Norv Turner, he had Pat Shurmur. With Pat Shurmur, he had Tony Sparano. The plan was to have Sparano help John DeFilippo before his tragic passing in training camp. His loss was greatly felt throughout the season. The “assistant (offensive minded) head coach” allows Zimmer to keep both of his hands on his defense.

Zimmer can now use Kubiak as a wise mentor for Stefanski. He’s someone who knows every look Stefanski will see. He can also serve as a buffer between Zimmer and Stefanski, if needed. But make no mistake, Mike Zimmer is still in control of this team.

It’s a lot like the front seat situation when going on a road trip. Only one person can drive but isn’t it nice to have someone who handles the navigation and the music so you can stay focused on steering the ship in the right direction and not killing everyone aboard in the process?

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What if’s, Nightmares, and Unicorns:

Let’s get negative for a moment before we get back to positive. Kubiak could come in handy if the end of Vikings days as we know it were to happen.

If things go poorly this year and Zimmer is fired before the season is over, Kubiak is the logical choice to step in as head coach on an interim (and possibly longer) basis. He could then promote his son Klint to offensive coordinator (which is where Klint is heading eventually somewhere).

On the other hand, if things go well this year and Stefanski leaves for a promotion to head coach elsewhere, Kubiak could slot into offensive coordinator, or stay as an advisor while his son takes the offensive coordinator position. It is literally a win-win for Kubiak and all involved.

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The Vikings find themselves at a crossroads with massive expectations going forward.

Succeed and they will build off of what already looks to be a bright future with a lot of talent, while they look to cement themselves into the playoffs on a yearly basis.

If they suck then everyone is soon to be gone and the next head coach will carry the impossible burden of bringing Minnesota to a Super Bowl. Even if the title is weird and probably made up (Assistant to the Head Coach is more like it) you can never have enough brainpower in one building. And, Zimmer’s willingness to make this happens is a signal that he feels that too.

Seth Toupal | Minnesota Sports Fan

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