A year ago after Kevin Stefanski left to become the Browns' head coach, Mike Zimmer asked Gary Kubiak to call plays for the first time in four years and become the team's new offensive coordinator. Kubiak, at the time, told Zimmer he needed two days to think about the job; he called to accept in a day and a half.
The 59-year-old Kubiak directed an offense that finished fourth in total yards and 11th in scoring, but he left the door open last week he might not return, saying, "I'm kind of a year-to-year guy at this stage of my life, I think, as a football coach."
While news media reports Monday afternoon indicated that Kubiak is leaning toward retiring, sources close to the team said nothing has been finalized. But it's believed Kubiak could step away after two years in Minnesota, one as the assistant head coach who helped Stefanski build the Vikings' offensive system and one as the coordinator.
Kubiak had first retired as Broncos head coach after the 2017 season, and was itching to get back on a coaching staff by the time Stefanski discussed working with him before 2019.
His remarks in his final news conference of the year last Thursday suggested retirement was on his mind.
"I enjoyed working with the players, I love calling games," he said. "That's the way I grew up. It's interesting. I'll tell you, I've had my opportunity to be a head coach and I enjoyed that, but it was really fun to be one of the guys again, if that makes any sense. Back in that room teaching and being one of the fellas, so I appreciate Zim and [general manager] Rick [Spielman] giving me a chance to do that. I've enjoyed it."
If Kubiak decides to step away, the Vikings would be looking for their sixth coordinator in as many years. They've built their offense on West Coast fundamentals since Pat Shurmur stepped in after Norv Turner's 2016 resignation. Zimmer's move to hire Kubiak following Stefanski's departure was based in part on continuity around quarterback Kirk Cousins, who'd had the best statistical season of his career in 2019.
This year, Cousins threw a career-high 35 touchdown passes while Justin Jefferson set a Super Bowl-era rookie record for receiving yards (1,400) and Dalvin Cook finished second in the NFL with 1,557 rushing yards.
Were the Vikings to opt for an internal hire, quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak could be a strong option after working for both his father and Stefanski, whose relationship with the younger Kubiak was what introduced him to Gary.
Offensive line coach/run game coordinator Rick Dennison is also a former offensive coordinator, having worked in that capacity for Gary Kubiak in Houston and Denver and called plays as Buffalo's offensive coordinator in 2017.
Former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, who was fired Monday, would also mesh well with the Vikings' scheme. He won two Super Bowls while playing running back in Kubiak's offenses in Denver.