The man who meets that criteria is Gary Kubiak, current Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Advisor for the Minnesota Vikings. You likely remember Kubiak from his tenure as the Houston Texans Head Coach (2006-2013) or his short stint as the Broncos Head Coach (2015-2016) in which they won the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, health concerns cut his terrific head coaching career short, and he took a front-office role with the Broncos until last season. He was close to becoming Denver’s offensive coordinator, but Vic Fangio wanted to go in another direction, so Kubiak packed his bags for up north. However, the Falcons were one of the few teams that seemed to have enough talent to get Kubiak on the sidelines last season, and now that there is a head coaching vacancy, you would think he would have a vast interest, health permitting:
Now official: Keep an eye on Gary Kubiak in Atlanta. One place he’d be interested if he came down from the front office. https://t.co/VVxwEa0pSY
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 31, 2018
Kubiak got his start as the QB coach with the 49ers, serving under Kyle Shanahan’s father, Mike Shanahan. He helped Steve Young have an MVP season, and they later went on to win the Super Bowl. Kubiak then followed Shanahan to the Denver Broncos, where he would serve as their offensive coordinator for ten seasons. John Elway went on to win 2 Super Bowls in Kubiak’s offense.
While there are some differences in any two coaches’ playbook, Kubiak’s long tenure under Shanahan has turned him into a West Coast Offense wiz, and he has been doing it a lot longer than the younger Shanahan. Little Shanny has turned into one of the best offensive minds in the game running his variation of the West Coast offense, with a bit more creativity, and Falcons fans saw this first-hand during their Super Bowl run. These two are cut from the same cloth, and if Atlanta ever plans to emulate similar results under that type of scheme, Kubiak should be their guy. They learned it all from the same man.
Kubiak turned Arian Foster from a nobody into a superstar in this offense when he became the Houston Texans Head Coach. He never did anything life-changing during his time there but did make them a playoff team and changed the culture of Texans football. Kubiak, along with his understudy Rick Dennison, even turned current Falcons backup Matt Schaub into a two-time pro-bowler in his scheme.
Kubiak has only served as an offensive coordinator once in recent memory, with the Baltimore Ravens in 2014. That season, he showed how he could achieve success offensively despite the personnel. Kubiak came in and implemented his Zone Blocking Scheme, and next thing you know, a former backup of his in Houston, Justin Forsett, ran for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns en route to a pro bowl nomination. Forsett was a nobody, and when Kubiak left, he lasted just 13 more games with the franchise before being cut and, for the most part, never heard from again.
Under Kubiak, Joe Flacco had the best season of his career. He never reached that level of play again. The Ravens, like the Falcons, tried to bring in another mind for years to emulate his West Coast Offense, and to no avail. It took a playmaker like Lamar Jackson to change the tone of the offense four years later.
What Kubiak should be able to do is revive the run game with his use of the ZBS. His offense consists of a ton of outside runs, play-action fakes, bootlegs, and crossing routes. He has made a living of keeping defenses honest and turning no-name backs into 1,000 yards rushers. And frankly, at that point, you can let Matt Ryan take care of the rest.
Kubiak has played a considerable role in the Vikings offense this year, and if not for the confusion with Denver, he likely would be the OC in Minnesota right now. What they have done is become a run-first team behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, making life easier for Kirk Cousins, who has had a fantastic season. That is precisely how the Falcons need to revamp their offense for 2019, regardless of whether it is Devonta Freeman or a back they draft.
Hiring Kubiak would not be bringing in another coach that wants to run the West Coast. It would be acquiring a man who has mastered it and made it so prevalent in today’s game. Imagine what he could accomplish with talents such as Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley. He may not be a long-term hire given his age, but it seems like he could be the best thing for the team right now. The system would work with the personnel, his scheme should hide a ton of the flaws on the offensive line, and he is a coach with Super Bowl experience.