The Denver Broncos players were told by head coach Gary Kubiak that he intended to step down after the team’s victory on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Kubiak told the players he’ll be their “biggest fan moving forward.”
The team announced Monday that Kubiak is indeed stepping down, but the word retirement was not used in the release. It’s not clear if Kubiak might consider returning to coaching at any point after next season, but it’s notable that the door appears to be cracked open for that down the road.
Less than two years after taking his dream job to coach for his close friend, Broncos general manager John Elway, and less than a year after beating the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl, Kubiak will pass the baton, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, due to health concerns.
“I did talk with the team, but right now … today’s about the team and players,” Kubiak said Sunday night before the team announced the move. “… But I did have a really good moment with the team.”
Cornerback Kayvon Webster posted this to Twitter, another indication of Kubiak’s announcement to the team:
Love Coach Kubiak! Blessings to the legend
— kwebb (@kayvonwebster) January 2, 2017
News of Kubiak’s departure first surfaced early Sunday morning.
In his short, brilliant run as the head coach for the team in which he spent the majority of his playing career, Kubiak compiled a 21-11 record heading into the season finale and won Super Bowl 50. The Broncos missed the playoffs this year, however.
Back on Oct. 9, Kubiak’s perspective likely began to change. That was the night he spent in the hospital following a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He was diagnosed with what was termed a “complex migraine condition” and missed the following week, including the loss to the San Diego Chargers four days after his hospital stay.
Asked about his health this past week, Kubiak joked with the media by asking if he did not look good to them.
“I love this league,” Kubiak told media. “I love the Broncos. I love the work, you know? You know, I’m all in on the Raiders right now. There will be time for reflection and all that stuff next week, but right now it’s time to focus on what we’re doing.”
This season was not his first health scare, either. Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke and collapsed on the sideline at halftime of a game in 2013 when he was head coach of the Houston Texans. He returned that season, too, in what was a disaster on the field with a 2-14 record. Kubiak was fired at season’s end, having put together a 61-64 mark over seven seasons with the Texans.
This season also has been tough, with the Broncos missing the playoffs with two first-time starters at quarterback in Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, a struggling offensive line and a few questionable late-game coaching decisions. The defense could not rescue the team like it did during the title run under Peyton Manning, and the Broncos will head into Kubiak’s final game as coach with an 8-7 mark.
Kubiak walks away with a Super Bowl ring, a 5-2 postseason mark and an overall coaching record of 81-75. But it appears he also leaves with a chance to do something about his persistent health concerns. And that is what he deems more important, we’d imagine.
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