KU­BIAK RE­TURNS TO BRON­COS AS AD­VISER

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Nicki Jhab­vala

Hours af­ter agree­ing to a new, five-year con­tract to stay on as gen­eral man­ager and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions, John El­way wel­comed back a long­time friend and coach he said farewell to only seven months ear­lier.

Gary Ku­biak, the Bron­cos’ for­mer head coach who re­signed in Jan­uary, was re-hired Tues­day as a se­nior per­son­nel ad­viser, re­join­ing his sons Klint (of­fen­sive as­sis­tant/ quar­ter­backs) and Klein (South­west area scout) on the team’s staff.

Ku­biak’s new role mir­rors that of fel­low se­nior per­son­nel ad­viser Tom Heck­ert. Ku­biak, who will be based in Hous­ton and make oc­ca­sional trips to Dove Val­ley, will fo­cus mostly on of­fen­sive col­lege prospects and help with the team’s eval­u­a­tion in free agency. Heck­ert, who is based in Colorado, will do the same for the de­fense.

“It’s an honor for me to con­tinue to be part of this great or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Ku­biak said in a state­ment. “John and I talked long ago about any op­por­tu­nity like this, and I’m very happy to be able to con­trib­ute on the per­son­nel side. I said when I left that I still wanted to be in­volved in foot­ball. This gives me an op­por­tu­nity to be in­volved with the game, and I’m ex­cited to get to work.”

Ku­biak’s quick re­turn to the NFL should come as no sur­prise. When he stepped down Jan. 2, he said he was “get­ting out of coach­ing” but not the game en­tirely.

“I have a lot to give,” he said then. “I’m go­ing to find some­thing else to do and I’m go­ing to wake up with that same pas­sion and do that, just like I’ve coached for the last 20-some­thing years.”

Last sea­son, Ku­biak suf­fered a health scare early in the sea­son — his sec­ond as an NFL head coach — and be­fore the Bron­cos’ fi­nal road game at Kansas City, he in­formed El­way that the sea­son would be his last. Ku­biak’s heath was a driv­ing fac­tor. He couldn’t do the job as thor­oughly as he al­ways had, and he didn’t want to com­pro­mise.

But he wasn’t done com­pletely.

A month later at Su­per Bowl LI, Ku­biak told The Den­ver Post he was itch­ing to get back, that he had al­ready had “some great con­ver­sa­tions around the league with some peo­ple” and that he hoped to make a de­ci­sion on his next ca­reer path within the com­ing months.

“My next stop is not go­ing to be coach­ing, and I’m kind of ex­cited about that be­cause there are a lot of things about the game that I’ve al­ways loved,” he told The Post. “I love eval­u­at­ing, I love the draft, I love eval­u­at­ing play­ers and do­ing those types of things. I had some re­ally in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions with some col­leges.”

What he didn’t re­veal then was that those ac­tu­ally dated to around the time he stepped down as the Bron­cos’ head coach. Ideas had been for­mu­lated and talks had al­ready started be­tween him and the team about him stay­ing with the fran­chise he called home. Over the past sev­eral months, he has had mul­ti­ple con­ver­sa­tions with El­way as well as head coach Vance Joseph about mak­ing a re­turn.

“With as much ex­pe­ri­ence as he has eval­u­at­ing play­ers,” El­way said, “Gary’s go­ing to be a tremen­dous re­source for our per­son­nel de­part­ment.”

In his first year as the Bron­cos’ head coach in 2015, Ku­biak led the Bron­cos to their third NFL ti­tle, be­com­ing only the fourth man to lead a team to a Su­per Bowl vic­tory in his first year as its head coach. And he did so while man­ag­ing an in­jured Pey­ton Man­ning and an in­ex­pe­ri­enced Brock Osweiler at quar­ter­back while the de­fense starred. The fol­low­ing sea­son, de­spite a play­off elim­i­na­tion, Ku­biak helped groom a pair of young quar­ter­backs in Trevor Siemian and Pax­ton Lynch.

In his two years at the helm, Ku­biak guided the Bron­cos to 24 wins to tie Red Miller for the most in fran­chise his­tory in his first two sea­sons as head coach. In 10 sea­sons as an NFL head coach, in Hous­ton and Den­ver, Ku­biak posted a ca­reer coach­ing record of 8777 (.534).

For 22 years, he was a part of the Bron­cos, spend­ing the first nine as El­way’s backup quar­ter­back (198391), 11 more as the team’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor (19952005) and two as head coach. Ku­biak and El­way have been a part of all three of the Bron­cos’ Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onships.

To­gether they hope to be a part of a fourth.

“I think ev­ery­body had a feel­ing he’d get back into it some way,” Siemian said. “It’ll be cool. I’m sure he’ll be around the fa­cil­ity com­ing up here, but I’m lucky to have him com­ing back in Den­ver. In what­ever ca­pac­ity he’s in, I’m sure peo­ple would love to have him. Glad he’s back.”

Steve Nehf, Den­ver Post file

Gary Ku­biak’s ab­sence from the Bron­cos didn’t last long, which is fine by John El­way.

He­len H. Richard­son, Den­ver Post file

Gary Ku­biak’s new role won’t in­clude the public glare.

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