Few fans expected the New Orleans Saints’ search for a new offensive coordinator to take so long, but it isn’t an easy process. And NFL-enforced anti-tampering rules are likely playing a factor. If the Saints hope to land someone coaching in Super Bowl LVIII — like Klint Kubiak or Brian Griese, both assistants with the San Francisco 49ers who have already met with them — they’ll have to wait until after the championship game to make a move.
Kubiak has the stronger resume of the pair. Griese only entered the coaching ranks in 2022. He did help guide the quarterbacks room through a lot of turmoil in his first year on the job with injuries sidelining Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, and he’s been a big influence on Brock Purdy’s development through two seasons. But he’s never called plays and there’s much more to the job of an offensive coordinator than coaching the quarterback, even if that is a critical task.
So why Kubiak? The San Francisco passing game coordinator has a lot of experience despite his young age (he’ll turn 37 in a few weeks) for a coach. He’s called plays before with the Minnesota Vikings (in 2021) and, briefly, the Denver Broncos (in 2022) after Nathaniel Hackett gave up that responsibility. He’s coached in the NFL since 2013, steadily climbing the ranks. Working under Kyle Shanahan on one of the league’s best offenses during the last year does make him an attractive candidate.
But here’s the catch. Hiring Kubiak (if that’s the direction the Saints are leaning) may not be a slam dunk. Two different teams have let him call plays and neither of they both chose to move on from him. He was jettisoned with the rest of the Vikings staff after Mike Zimmer was fired in Minnesota. When Hackett was dismissed in Denver, interim head coach Jerry Rosburg reassigned play calling duties from Kubiak and gave them to offensive coordinator Justin Outten. All three of them were let go once Sean Payton entered the building. If someone were being uncharitable, they’d suggest Kubiak would not have gotten this far if his father wasn’t an influential former head coach.
When he was calling plays for the Vikings in 2021, Kubiak’s offense ranked in the middle of the back in most areas: 14th in points scored, 12th in yards gained, 11th in passing yards and 9th in touchdown passes with the 17th-most rushing yards. Minnesota’s 25 points per game was a respectable scoring output. In 2022, though, the Broncos averaged 14.5 points per game before giving Kubiak the headset; he managed 16.8 points per game before they switched again. Denver scored 24 and 31 points in their final two games with Outten calling plays instead.
Some of it is on personnel. Some of it can be chalked up to the schedule and quality of opponents. There’s a big difference in Kubiak spending the offseason working with Kirk Cousins to learn how to best relay plays in to his quarterback versus being thrown into the role late in November with little prep time. But at the end of the day, mixed results are exactly what they look like.
Which means the Saints have to ask themselves an important question: is it worth waiting on Kubiak (or Griese, if they’re looking at him instead)? They aren’t the only team trying to hire a new play caller. If there are other candidates they value highly, waiting another week and a half to sit down with one of the 49ers assistants again could be costly. But Mickey Loomis prides himself on his patience. If he trusts Dennis Allen is zeroing in on the right candidate for the job, no amount of public pressure or complaints from anxious fans on social media is going to dissuade him. All we can do is wait and see how this plays out.