Always a Bronco

The Monday after the regular NFL season ends has come to be known as “Black Monday” for the coaching purge that takes place among non-contending teams.

Who would have guessed that less than a year removed from beating Carolina in the Super Bowl, the Broncos would be among those searching for a new head coach.

Gary Kubiak completed only his second season as the Broncos head coach before announcing Sunday that he is retiring from coaching. His health appears to be the reason why.

Kubiak was diagnosed with a “complex migraine” condition earlier this year after a loss to Atlanta. In 2013, while head coach of the Houston Texans, he collapsed on the field after a game, having suffered a mini-stroke.

Clearly the game has taken a physical toll on Kubiak. Is there a more pressure-packed job than coaching an NFL team? Still, we have to wonder whether the team’s disappointing 9-7 record played an equal role in his decision to step down.

Big changes were expected for the Bronocos sputtering offense, even if Kubiak returned. There’s been some speculation that the fiercely loyal Kubiak didn’t relish the idea of personnel changes among his coaching staff.

We’ll know, after a year or two, whether Kubiak is serious about stepping completely away from the game, or if he just needed a break after three decades in the league. John McClain, who covers the Texans for the Houston Chronicle, tweeted: “I predict that we haven’t seen the last of Kubiak as a coach. He’s 55 and it’s in his blood. He will get restless. I’d say one year off.”

Regardless of his future, Kubiak deserves to be remembered as a pillar of one the NFL’s signature franchises. Six of the Bronco’s eight Super Bowl appearances — and all three Super Bowl victories — came with Kubiak as part of the organization.

Few people could have guessed that he would emerge from the shadows of being John Elway’s backup to pilot the Broncos to their third Lombardi Trophy. Kubiak proved that hard work will get you everywhere in the NFL.

Kubiak was only the third head coach to win a Super Bowl with the same team he played for. The others? Mike Ditka (Bears) and Tom Flores (Raiders).

If his career is over, it’s entirely fitting that he ends it as a Bronco.

“I’m not sure what my future holds, but I know that I’ll always consider myself a Bronco,” he said in a statement he released Monday. “This team is in good hands with a lot of outstanding people, and I expect great things ahead for the Denver Broncos.”

Denver will now search for its third coach in the last four seasons. No coach has lasted more than four seasons since Mike Shanahan’s departure.

It will be hard for Elway to find someone who appreciates Denver’s history, rabid fan base and culture of high expectations more than Kubiak. Whoever it is, he’ll have some big shoes to fill.


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