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The Kubiak Package Deal

Minnesota Vikings v Denver Broncos Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

When I first read of Gary Kubiak being signed by the Vikings in a ‘senior offensive role’, I thought it was a good hire. Kubiak has a lot of experience to bring to the table and could be a good resource for Kevin Stefanski as offensive coordinator.

But as further details became available, I became a bit more skeptical of what was being put forward as a “package deal.” The “package deal” is said to include Kubiak’s son Klint, who will serve as QB coach, and Brian Pariani as TE coach - both of whom have since been hired by the Vikings as well, with Gary Kubiak as Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor. The other as yet un-hired coach reported to be in the package is Rick Dennison, who would serve as offensive line coach.

The package deal reminded me of DVD/digital movie packages where you get one good movie, and a couple not so good ones, for a bargain package price. The problem is that a couple of the movies aren’t worth anything on their own, and you probably won’t watch. And so the package deal isn’t such a good one after all.

And so while Gary Kubiak may be a good hire as offensive advisor, there is a cronyism/nepotism aspect to the package deal that I’m none too sure about. In particular:

  • Gary’s son Klint is to be QB coach, but outside of six weeks coaching Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch to a 2-4 record to end the season in 2016, Klint Kubiak has never coached QBs before. He has coached with the Vikings several years ago as the offensive quality control / assistant WR coach - and apparently became friends with Kevin Stefanski during this time - but otherwise not much of a resume as a QB coach - apart from presumably being able to learn from his old man. Not sure what he’s got to offer Kirk Cousins.
  • Brian Pariani is signed as TE coach. He has basically followed Gary Kubiak, and coached TEs from 1995-2004 in Denver, and again in 2015-16.
  • Rick Dennison is also reportedly to follow and complete the Kubiak package as offensive line coach. Dennison has also mostly followed Kubiak, and reportedly Kubiak’s insistence on bringing Dennison (and possibly Pariani) back to Denver was the reason the Broncos and John Elway decided to part ways with Kubiak- sending him on his way to Minnesota. He’s most recently been with Buffalo (2017) as a one-year OC, and the Jets (2018) where he is OL/Run game coach. He was also OC for the Broncos in 2015-16. His track record is not good at any of these last stops.

A 2015-16 Broncos Reunion

There is also an unsettling common denominator with all these coaches - and a few others - and that is the 2015-16 Denver Broncos.

Denver won the Super Bowl in 2015 with an awesome defense and what remained of Peyton Manning at QB. His passer rating on the season was 67.9 (Christian Ponder’s career average was 75.4 as a reference). Brock Osweiler filled in several games when Manning was injured and wasn’t good either. Anyway, the Broncos had arguably the best defense in the NFL and Von Miller was a terror off the edge under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

Gary Kubiak was head coach, Rick Dennison was offensive coordinator, Brian Pariani TE coach, Clancy Barone (current Vikings co-OL coach) was offensive line coach.

I used the term ‘unsettling’ to describe this coaching reunion because although the Broncos won the Super Bowl on the strength of their defense, their offense - which these guys were responsible for - was awful.

In 2015, the Broncos offense was ranked 19th in points and 16th in yards. They were ranked 29th in turnovers, 25th on 3rd down, 28th in passing TDs, and 28th in the red zone. Their combined passing ANY/A (adjusted net yards per attempt) was a lowly 5.14, which would have ranked second-to-last this season, and well below Kirk Cousins’ 7.3 mark this year.

The following year, 2016, they lost Peyton Manning and went with... wait for it... Trevor Siemian at QB - who was the Vikings backup this season and complete dud in preseason.

The offense did not improve.

It ranked 22nd in points, 27th in yards, 28th in rushing yards/attempt, 21st in turnovers, 31st on 3rd down, 26th in the red zone, 21st in passing yards, 22nd in net passing yards/attempt.

They also had two pro-bowl, 1,000 yard receivers that year - Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. CJ Anderson and Devantae Booker were their RBs. They combined for a mere 3.6 yards/rush. They were 27th in rushing yards that year, despite being 15th in rushing attempts.

Pro Football Focus ranked the Broncos offensive line 24th in 2016 and tied for 20th in 2015. The only bright spot there was Mike Paradis (currently a free agent) who had a breakout year in 2016 and has been good ever since. One can hope that Paradis might be apart of the Kubiak package too, but that remains to be seen. The Broncos just hired one of the best in the business - Mike Munchak - to be offensive line coach, poaching him from the Steelers.

2010-2012 Houston Texans

The Broncos weren’t the first time Gary Kubiak, Rick Dennison and Brian Pariani teamed up to coach an offense in the NFL. Back in 2010-2012 they coached the Texans to some pretty good offenses with Arian Foster at RB and Matt Schaub at QB. They were a top 10 offense in points scored in each of those years, primarily behind a strong running game. They were ranked #1 and #4 in rushing attempts in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

In 2012 PFF ranked the Texans offensive line 10th best in the league, 5th best in 2011, and 2nd best in 2010. But John Benton was the offensive line coach during those years.

Wade Phillips was defensive coordinator in 2011-2012, and that helped the Texans go from 6-10 in 2010, to 10-6 in 2011 and 12-4 in 2012.

2019 Minnesota Vikings

So what about this coming season with the Vikings? At this point there are more questions than answers.

  • We don’t know if Rick Dennison will be a part of ‘the package’ or not.
  • We don’t know how all these Kubiak cronies will get along with Kevin Stefanski as offensive coordinator - could potentially lead to some conflicts if Gary Kubiak and Stefanski don’t see eye-to-eye on things.
  • We don’t know if Dennison, or whoever is offensive line coach, can turn things around up-front for the Vikings offense. If they can’t, it’ll likely be a short stint in Minnesota for all of them.

Bottom line, I’m a bit skeptical about these coaching hires. Kubiak presumably won’t be calling plays - Stefanski will. In terms of actually coaching players, Klint Kubiak, Rick Dennison and Brian Pariani haven’t done much coaching QBs, offensive line, and TEs respectively - particularly in recent years.

So I’m not sure getting this band back together is going to help the Vikings next season.

Time will tell.