Gary Kubiak says his health is fine, but the grind of coaching caused him to retire

Shutdown Corner

Being an NFL head coach is an incredible job in many ways, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’s amazing that anyone can put up with the grind required of a head coach. Gary Kubiak just couldn’t do it anymore, at least not the way he wanted. So he stepped down from his job as Denver Broncos head coach, and said he’s retiring from coaching for good.

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He had a medical episode after a game against the Atlanta Falcons in October, and missed Denver’s next game at the San Diego Chargers. Kubiak insisted Monday, as he announced he was stepping down as Broncos coach, he physically feels fine. He’s only 55 years old. But after that medical incident he tried to scale his responsibilities back, and just couldn’t do it.

Kubiak had a long history with the Broncos, as John Elway’s backup quarterback and then as an assistant, and said being head coach of the Broncos was his dream job. But his dream job was tough on him, too.

“If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it a certain way,” said Kubiak, who led the Broncos to a Super Bowl title last season. “I had to be honest and say, I can’t do it that way anymore.”

Kubiak met with Elway, now the Broncos’ general manager and his boss, over Christmas weekend when the Broncos were in Kansas City for a game against the Chiefs. He said he wanted to talk to Elway as a friend and not his boss. He told Elway he couldn’t continue being a head coach.

Elway said he wasn’t surprised when Kubiak told him he wanted to retire from coaching. He said he knew how much Kubiak puts into his job. It’s tough to maintain that.

“Knowing how hard he works and how he goes after it and how much he puts into it, it’s his life,” Elway said.

“I’ve struggled big time this year, and these coaches have picked me up,” Kubiak said. Amazing to get me through.”

Kubiak said after he was fired by the Houston Texans and took an offensive coordinator job with the Baltimore Ravens, he decided he’d be a coordinator for a few years and enjoy it. That was the plan for the remainder of his coaching career. There’s a lot less stress and fewer demands on a coordinator. Then Elway called his longtime buddy and said he wanted him to replace John Fox at head coach.

“Thank God he did,” Kubiak said. “That (Super Bowl 50) ring will be special to me, and what took place the last couple years.”

He just couldn’t continue to do it. Kubiak talked about trying, after his incident with migraines that caused him to miss a game, to approach the job a different way. Before long, he was back to his old routine.

“We all have a routine, we all have a way we go about doing things,” Kubiak said. “I’ve had my routine for a long time. I’ve taken a lot of pride that I can coach a football team, be there for the players, be there for the coaches, be there for the organization, do a game plan, calls plays on Sunday, I’ve taken pride in the fact that I can do all those things. This year I haven’t been able to do that. It’s been tough.

“For the first time I had to tell myself, you can’t do all those things.”

Kubiak steps away from coaching without knowing what comes next. He talked about still loving the game, and maybe there’s a job in the game for him, just not in coaching. The Broncos move on too, to a coaching search to replace someone who led them to a championship. Elway said nobody on the current staff will be considered, and he’d start his search Monday. ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Elway requested permission to speak with Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan – obviously the Broncos and Elway have a long history with Kyle’s father Mike Shanahan.

Kubiak isn’t stepping away because of any specific medical problem, he said. Coaching just seemed to wear him out. It’s surprising that doesn’t happen more often.

“I’m doing great,” Kubiak said. “I’m OK. OK? I’m OK. But coaching is a very demanding business. Tough business.”

Gary Kubiak officially stepped down as Broncos coach on Monday. (AP)
Gary Kubiak officially stepped down as Broncos coach on Monday. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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