ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — John Elway and Gary Kubiak are back together drawing up blueprints for the Denver Broncos to get back to the Super Bowl.
Elway hired Kubiak on Monday, inking his former backup QB and offensive coordinator to a four-year contract. Kubiak replaces John Fox, who was ousted last week following Denver’s stunning loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC divisional playoffs.
“Having coached on three Super Bowl teams and 11 playoff teams, Gary knows what it will take to deliver another world championship” to Denver, Elway said in a statement.
Fox went 49-22, counting playoffs, in four seasons in Denver, where he won four AFC West titles. But Elway didn’t like the lack of fire the team displayed in its biggest games, including a 35-point loss in last year’s Super Bowl and a 24-13 loss at home as a heavy favorite two weeks ago.
Fox was hired as the Chicago Bears’ new coach on Friday.
Kubiak and his staff are expected to bring a discipline and toughness that Elway deemed was lacking in Denver, where a talent-laden roster that featured an NFL-high 10 Pro Bowlers lost at home in the playoffs after a bye for the second time in three years.
In each of the past two seasons, Elway, the team’s general manager and executive vice president, found it necessary to address the players himself following particularly bad performances, something the head coach usually handles.
In Kubiak, Elway brings back a man who went down the championship trails with him in the 1990s.
Kubiak’s relationship with Elway includes nine seasons as his backup QB, from 1983-91, and four seasons as his offensive coordinator.
After winning his first Super Bowl ring as the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterbacks coach in 1994, he returned to Denver on Mike Shanahan’s staff and helped draw up the blueprint for the Broncos’ two Super Bowl championships following the 1997 and ’98 seasons.
Altogether, Kubiak spent 11 seasons as Shanahan’s top offensive assistant before leaving in 2006 to coach the Houston Texans. He went 63-66, counting 2-2 in the playoffs, in eight seasons in Houston.
“Gary Kubiak has established a track record of leadership, success and high character during his 30 seasons in the NFL,” Elway said in a statement. “While there is no question he is a Bronco, what Gary has learned from his other opportunities around the league, especially in his eight seasons as a head coach, will tremendously benefit our organization.”
As Denver’s offensive coordinator from 1995-2005, Kubiak helped the Broncos lead the league in scoring (25.2 points per game), total yards (365 yards per game) and rushing (142.2-yard average) over that span. He also coached the team’s quarterbacks for eight of those seasons (1995-02), including a four-year period from 1995-98 in which Elway ranked second in the NFL in touchdown passes (101) and fourth in yards passing (13,739).
“Gary has been part of the Broncos’ family for two decades and has proven himself as a highly successful head coach and assistant coach around the NFL,” Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said.
“From his time in Denver, he completely understands — and has contributed to — the culture of winning that has been established throughout Pat Bowlen’s ownership. Gary also respects what the Broncos mean to this community and the special connection this team has with its fans.”
Although Kubiak, 53, gets a second chance as a head coach in Denver, his comeback actually began in Baltimore last season.
Under Kubiak, the Ravens improved from 30th in the league in rushing to eighth and Joe Flacco’s sacks dropped from 48 to 19. Flacco also set career highs in yards passing (3,986) and TD passes (27) and running back Justin Forsett’s breakout season earned him his first Pro Bowl berth.
Earlier this month, Kubiak bypassed chances to interview for the head coaching vacancies with the Bears and the Jets, saying he was happy in Baltimore.
That was before his dream job opened up.
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith tweeted his congratulations and asked, “How can you be mad at a guy who did his job and was rewarded with dream opportunity that WASN’T available when he said he was staying?”
“From all I’m hearing, he’ll be a great hire,” Broncos star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.
Kubiak takes over a team that may or may not have Peyton Manning under center in 2015. The five-time MVP is mulling his future after a promising season turned sour down the stretch and ended unexpectedly.
Elway asked Manning not to make a rash decision and said he won’t need an answer for a few weeks. Manning, who turns 39 in March, is due $19 million each of the next two seasons.
Manning pulled out of next week’s Pro Bowl because a strained right thigh hasn’t gotten much better since his season ended.
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