John Elway and the Denver Broncos recently won the Super Bowl under the guidance of head coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak may never have been a viable option had it not been for John Harbaugh who stumbled upon the recently fired coach before the 2014 season.
Kubiak had fallen out of favor as the head coach of the Houston Texans. The Texans found success under Kubiak, having won the AFC South Division title in 2011 and 2012 but things fell apart in 2013 and Kubiak was fired after a 2-11 record.
Harbaugh interviewed Rick Dennison for an offensive assistant position and Dennison suggested Kubiak as a candidate for the Ravens offensive coordinator position. Kubiak was given control of the Ravens offense in 2014 and guided the team to numerous franchise bests on offense.
Joe Flacco turned in the best statistical season of his career under the tutelage of Dennison and Kubiak. He threw for 3,986 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2014— Both are career highs.
The Ravens averaged 25.6 points per game in 2014, which was the eighth highest average in the NFL. The running game produced 16 touchdowns, tying for fifth in the NFL.
Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme was perfect for the Ravens offensive line and running backs. The running game struggled in 2013, finishing last in the NFL in yards per carry in 2013. They emerged as one of the best units in 2014 under offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
Kubiak was behind a couple of wise personnel decisions that really paid off for the Ravens. He wanted to be sure to bring in a few of his players when he coached the Texans. Owen Daniels was brought in to help veteran tight end Dennis Pitta and Crocket Gillmore learn the scheme as a rookie.
Daniels ended up leading all Ravens tight ends in receptions once Pitta went down with an injury.
Another move that proved to be wise was the addition of Justin Forsett. Forsett entered training camp with an outside chance to make the roster, but he continued to make plays. A great opportunity presented itself when Ray Rice was suspended. Forsett knew Kubiak’s offense and excelled when given the chance to play. As a result, Forsett lead the NFL in yards per carry (5.2) and signed a three-year deal to be the Ravens running back for years to come.
None of those things would have happened had it not been for Kubiak’s suggestions. According to Kubiak, he planned to return to Baltimore as the offensive coordinator last year.
Everything changed when John Elway decided to relieve John Fox of his head coaching duties. Suddenly, there was a legitimate suitor for Kubiak to once again become a head coach.
Elway and Kubiak were teammates in the 1980s. The two were Super Bowl champions as well, Elway as the quarterback and Kubiak as the offensive coordinator.
The Broncos went deep in the playoffs under Fox. They lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl in 2013. In 2014, they lost to the Indianapolis Colts at home in the divisional playoffs. Elway had seen enough.
The Broncos could not have just brought anyone in to replace Fox. Kubiak’s success with the Ravens made him a valid candidate to take over in Denver. He took the job and the Broncos became Super Bowl champions.