John Elway and Gary Kubiak are together again, this time as team president and head coach of the Denver Broncos.
Kubiak, who met with the Broncos in Houston on Sunday, finalized a four-year contract to again be Elway's right-hand man. Kubiak was calling the plays for the Broncos the last time the team hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
"Gary Kubiak has established a track record of leadership, success and high character during his 30 seasons in the NFL," Broncos general manager John Elway said in a statement. "While there is no question he is a Bronco, what Gary has learned from his other opportunities around the league -- especially in his eight seasons as a head coach -- will tremendously benefit our organization.
"Having coached on three Super Bowl champions and 11 playoff teams, Gary knows what it will take to deliver another world championship to Broncos fans. Coach Kubiak is all about winning and doing things the right way, which are values that have always been most important to the Broncos and owner Pat Bowlen."
The Broncos parted ways with John Fox after 48 wins and four AFC West championships in four seasons following a loss in the divisional playoffs to the Indianapolis Colts.
Seven days later, Kubiak was back in the saddle with the Broncos.
Kubiak, 53, is a 23-year coaching veteran who spent the 2014 season as offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens after eight years as head coach of the Houston Texans (2006-13). He has 20 years of experience with the Broncos, beginning with his nine years as a quarterback for the team from 1983-91 followed by 11 years as offensive coordinator with the club from 1995-05.
Elway and Kubiak are longtime friends. Kubiak spent nine years as Elway's backup and they were roommates for road games.
"Gary has been part of the Broncos' family for two decades and has proven himself as a highly successful head coach and assistant coach around the NFL," Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a news release. "From his time in Denver, he completely understands -- and has contributed to -- the culture of winning that has been established throughout Pat Bowlen's ownership. Gary also respects what the Broncos mean to this community and the special connection this team has with its fans. We are thrilled that Gary Kubiak is returning to Denver to become the next head coach of the Broncos."
The Ravens released a statement from Kubiak last week that he was staying with the team and not pursuing any of the open jobs around the league. But after the Denver job became available, the Ravens didn't want to stand in the way if Kubiak wanted to talk to the Broncos.
It could be a changing places scenario for Kubiak and Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who was scheduled to talk to the Ravens about their opening and also visit with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Under Kubiak, the Ravens' offense finished the regular season ranked 12th in total yardage (364.9 per game) and eighth in points (25.6 per game).
--There was a time when John Elway and John Fox saw eye-to-eye on the best way to run the Denver Broncos.
But over four years together, their perspectives diverged. And by the time a report from Fox Sports' Jay Glazer revealed that Fox felt he would be fired if the Broncos lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the differences were irreconcilable with anything short of a Super Bowl win.
"I think in any relationship, whether it be player-coach, coach-GM, you're always going to have bumpy patches. I think the main thing between John and I was we disagreed how to get to the next level," said Elway, who spoke Tuesday, one day after the Broncos announced a mutual parting of ways between the team and Fox. "We accomplished so much -- four AFC West championships -- but I think the biggest miss between us was how we can take that next step and what is was going to take to get to that next step."
It became clear as Elway spoke that he was displeased with the lack of fire and emotion shown by the team during the 24-13 loss that was its third in its last four divisional-round games. With the exception of bursts of energy and emotion from players like special-teamer Omar Bolden, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., defensive lineman Malik Jackson, running back C.J. Anderson and left guard Orlando Franklin, the Broncos looked lethargic and disjointed. By the time the offense went three-and-out on two consecutive possessions to open the second half, the home crowd had turned, with boos raining down like the drizzle that fell from the sky.
The loss was bad enough. The manner in which it happened -- emotional and physical domination that resembled the 43-8 Super Bowl XLVIII loss 49 weeks earlier -- rankled Elway even more.
"I think if there is one thing that you would like to have and you want to feel -- at least in the last game -- you want to feel like you go out kicking and screaming," Elway said. "I think two years in a row it didn't feel like we went out kicking and screaming because of the fact the way we played the last game. So therefore hopefully we get that turned around."
The Broncos remain in "Super Bowl or bust" mode, especially if quarterback Peyton Manning opts to return for a fourth Broncos season and his 18th in the league. But Elway expressed confidence that one of the two young quarterbacks also with the Broncos -- backup Brock Osweiler and practice-squad passer Zac Dysert -- could step in if Manning retires.
"I think we're excited about both of those guys," Elway said. "They've made progress. Brock's made that progress we hoped he'd make, it's just a matter of -- what's difficult is that he hasn't gotten a lot of playing time. So when that time comes, we'll see where he is."
Denver has eight Pro Bowlers other than Manning, six of whom are under contract for next year. That doesn't include linebacker Brandon Marshall and running back C.J. Anderson, both of whom played at a Pro Bowl level after stepping into the starting lineup because of injuries.
"We've got a relatively young roster," Elway said. "We're going to have eight or nine picks in the draft next year. We've got a good base of guys for the most part, with the exception of a couple Thomases (Demaryius and Julius) and a couple other guys we'll work on once we get to the coaching search to be able to tie them down, hopefully have them back. So I mean, I feel great about our football team."
But what Elway wants to see is fire from his team -- and improvement during the season. Although the 2012 and 2013 Broncos were fairly steady between the first and second halves of the season, the 2014 team started 6-1, then went 6-4, including the playoff loss.
"I think that we've got to peak a little bit later than we peaked," he said.