How will Gary Kubiak, the new Vikings assistant head coach and offensive adviser to Mike Zimmer, and offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski get along? This is an unusual situation for an NFL team.
“I am here to support Kevin,” Kubiak said Feb. 21. “I think a lot of him. I am very impressed with his knowledge, but I’m impressed with him as a person and how he handles the room. It looks like I’m going to be upstairs on gameday, but I am going to be there to help Kevin in any possible way I can: game planning, gameday, anything he needs me to do I will be there to help him out.”
Stefanski, entering his first full season as offensive coordinator after taking over for the fired John DeFilippo with three games remaining in the 2018 season, seems to have a lot of confidence in Kubiak and said he will lean on him as much as necessary.
And that will be necessary as seven of the Vikings’ 10 offensive coaches are in new roles this season, including Stefanski.
Worked with the best QBs
No doubt Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman believe that Kubiak can help Kirk Cousins in the quarterback’s second year with the team. Otherwise they wouldn’t have brought him in.
Asked what he knows about Cousins, Kubiak recalled the 2012 draft, when he was Houston Texans coach.
“Obviously when he came out for the draft, I studied him very hard coming out of college,” Kubiak recalled. “I had a head start on him there. I talked to [former Washington Redskins coach] Mike [Shanahan] and [former Redskins quarterbacks coach] Kyle [Shanahan] a lot, because we run a lot of the same systems, so I watched him in Washington play a lot of that system.
“I know a lot about him from that standpoint. This will be my first time to work with him personally, and the key thing is I think we can make up a lot of ground very quick because we talk the same language.”
Kubiak has coached a lot of QBs in his career, including three of the best of all time in Steve Young, John Elway and Peyton Manning, and more recently players such as Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub.
“I have been very fortunate with some of the guys I have been around,” Kubiak said. “It is fun, because these great quarterbacks are very bright and they ask a lot of questions, and it is very fun to go to battle with them and try to put them in the best possible position to be successful. I have been fortunate to do that.”
Kubiak said the fact that Cousins learned under Shanahan gives Kubiak a big head start in communicating with the Vikings QB. Kubiak and Shanahan coached together for so long and worked the same offense.
“Mike thinks the world of him,” he said. “[Cousins and I] can talk football because we use the same terminology. It will help us talk football real fast. It won’t be anything new. We can go to work.”
What role did Shanahan play in getting Kubiak’s career going?
“He is my career,” Kubiak said. “I mean he gave me an opportunity. First off he coached me as a player, he brought me to San Francisco and gave me a tough job to coach Steve Young, that was really tough.
“Then from there he made me a coordinator in Denver at the age of 33 or 34, so my career, I owe Mike everything in my career. He has not only been a teacher to me but he has been like a dad. He’s a very good friend.”
Coming to Minnesota
Kubiak said getting to work on the same staff as Zimmer is a big thrill.
“Zim and I battled many, many times, and now we get to go in a room and talk football and strategy and philosophy and it has been very, very fun,” he said.
Kubiak won the Super Bowl in his first season as Denver head coach but retired after his second for health reasons. He said he spent his two years away from coaching working mainly as a college scout.
So what made him want to come to Minnesota? “I missed it,” he said. “I missed being in the battles every week in football. This is a unique opportunity for me to get back and get involved.”
Another big advantage for Kubiak was being able to have his son, Klint Kubiak, join the staff as quarterbacks coach.
“It is pretty cool,” he said. “He is ready for this opportunity. He has worked for some good offensive football coaches the past seven or eight years, and this will give me a good chance to be around him every day with the quarterbacks, and between the two of us we have to get it right. I am looking forward to it.”
Asked what has to improve for an offense that ranked 20th in the NFL, he said: “We need to marry everything, run and pass, we are talking philosophy and how we’re going to go about doing that. Rick is a great general manager, and we have a good head start here, we have good running backs, we have to make it go.”
• Pro Football Focus rated Mackenzie Alexander as the Vikings’ most improved player in 2018, saying he settled into the slot cornerback role and broke up eight passes while not allowing a touchdown in coverage.
• Latavius Murray, who will be a free agent after two seasons with the Vikings, made it clear he considers himself a lead back. “I want to play. I want to start,” said Murray, 29. “I’m not content being in a backup role.”
• Tre Williams, currently the Gophers men’s basketball team’s lone commitment for 2019, is playing for Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah, a team ranked No. 14 in the country by USA Today. Last month at the Heartland Hoops Classic in Grand Island, Neb., he scored 19 points in a 65-53 victory over No. 13 Sunrise Christian Academy.
• Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck on some redshirt freshmen who could make an impact in 2019: “Guys like [tight end] Brevyn Spann-Ford and [linebacker] Braelen Oliver, players like that, we’re going to need them to help us. Curtis Dunlap Jr. started the bowl game [at right guard]. That redshirt rule [enabling players to play in four games but still redshirt] has really helped us. With these incoming freshmen we’re going to have to redshirt some of them, too, but also play them for four games.”
• Twins President Dave St. Peter on Miguel Sano’s injury: “There is nothing to this injury in my mind, based on what I’ve been told, that is going to keep him out of the lineup come Opening Day.”
• Timberwolves interim coach Ryan Saunders on Josh Okogie’s play at such a young age: “You have to count on guys and you expect a lot out of them and being only 20 years old he has a lot of room to grow, which is exciting.”
• Derrick Rose is very happy in Minnesota and wants to stay here. Look for Wolves owner Glen Taylor to do everything he can to sign the veteran.