I make no secret of the fact that I am as big a Broncos fan as you will find anywhere, I always have been. The “experts” are predicting doom for the reigning Super Bowl champions this year. At first glance, I get it. Peyton Manning, Malik Jackson, and Danny Trevathan are all gone. No one knows what the future holds for Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, but most expect a deal to get done. Even with all that, one key piece of last year’s championship puzzle has gone nowhere, head coach Gary Kubiak.
Laugh at me all you want. The guy can flat out coach. When the quarterback situation got murky last year, he was steady as the sun. He calmly named either Manning or Osweiler the starter each Monday. I feel it really helped the whole organization to know which direction they were going early in the week. Not only did Kubiak have the stones to pull Manning when things got ugly a little over halfway through the season, he had them to put Manning back in the lineup when Denver needed a spark in a key regular season finale against San Diego. Not many coaches would have made either of the moves.
He knew exactly what he had all year long, a great defense, above average ground game, and limitations at quarterback… No matter which one it was. Two videos from the NFL’s YouTube channel drive this home perfectly. Just a snippet from each is all you need. In the one below, early in the Super Bowl, Kubiak says something to his staff about getting Manning easy throws. He knew he was not dealing with the Manning of five years ago, and planned accordingly.
The next one from the second half is similar. There is a part after Denver recovers a fumble deep in Panthers territory with a chance to salt the game away. Kubiak doesn’t get caught up in the moment or giving Manning a spectacular sendoff. He immediately says “let’s just go run run run” By dancing with what brought him there, he and the Broncos gave Manning the ultimate sendoff.
When you dig deeper, Kubiak’s track record speaks for itself. He was John Elway’s backup for eight years before getting into coaching. He has four Super Bowl rings. He was 49ers quarterbacks coach in 1994, Broncos offensive coordinator in 1997 and 1998, and of course last year, also with the Broncos. He was also the first coach to lead the Houston Texans to the playoffs. However, the work he did in the mid-2000s is what really stands out.
Kubiak and his good buddy then Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan were the subject of league wide mocking when the Broncos signed quarterback Jake Plummer to be their starter in 2003. Plummer went from talented draft bust to Pro Bowler, leading the Broncos to three straight playoff berths, including the AFC title game in 2005. The bootleg heavy, run/play action first offense suited Plummer perfectly. He earned the nickname “No Mistake Jake.” Expect Kubiak to roll out something similar for this year’s Broncos. I know folks will laugh at the phrase “no mistake” being mentioned in the same breath as likely Broncos starter Mark Sanchez, but Plummer was viewed much the same as Sanchez is now prior to coming to Denver.
Kubiak’s offense is all based on getting the ground game going. During his stint as Broncos offensive coordinator, Kubiak had four different 1,000 rushers. Given that and the fact CJ Anderson really stepped up late last year, I feel pretty good about that. Throw in a revamped offensive line and I feel even better. Oh, by the way the defense is still really good.
Well, there you have it folks. That is my argument. My fandom plays some role, you all can decide how much. I think 11 wins is very realistic for the defending champs, am I crazy?