MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings have chosen former Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak as their offensive coordinator, filling the vacancy created by Kevin Stefanski’s departure to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns. The widely expected move was confirmed Thursday by a person with knowledge of the decision who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the club had not yet made the announcement.
Kubiak was as an offensive adviser and assistant to head coach Mike Zimmer this season, as the Vikings reached the divisional round of the playoffs.
Kubiak’s playbook, as directed by Stefanski in his first full season on the job, provided a clear boost for quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offense. The Vikings were eighth in the league with an average of 25.4 points a game, after ranking 19th in 2018.
“I like the scheme,” Zimmer said last week. “I like the continuity that we have offensively with the coaches, and I feel like if we add a couple more pieces and continue to work on the execution of staying with the same play calls, the same system, the same motions and formations and things like that, it’ll definitely help the offensive players.”
Kubiak’s arrival in 2019 gave Zimmer — who is 57-38-1 in the regular season and 2-3 in the playoffs in six years with the Vikings — a trusted veteran voice and a valuable offensive perspective to complement his defensive acumen. The 58-year-old Kubiak was an NFL head coach for 10 seasons, his time with both the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos shortened by health problems. He has also been an offensive coordinator for 12 years.
The Vikings a year ago hired his son, Klint Kubiak, as quarterbacks coach and two longtime colleagues — Rick Dennison (offensive line coach and running game coordinator) and Brian Pariani (tight ends coach).
Their zone blocking scheme was a good fit for a mobile offensive line in front of running back Dalvin Cook, who stayed healthy enough to make his first Pro Bowl. The emphasis on play-action and rollout passes and frequent use of two-tight end formations helped Cousins play to his strengths and produce a career-best season. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs was frustrated at times by a decreased number of throws that came his way. But he set career highs in yards per game (75.3) and yards per catch (17.9), the latter tied for fourth in the league.
After serving as Denver’s backup quarterback behind Pro Football Hall of Fame member John Elway on three AFC title-winning teams, Kubiak broke into NFL coaching as quarterbacks coach for the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers in the 1994-95 season. He was offensive coordinator for the Broncos for the next 11 years, winning two more Super Bowls along the way, before becoming head coach in Houston.
Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke during a game there in 2013, leading to his departure. He returned to the Broncos as head coach in 2015 and promptly won another Super Bowl. He was hospitalized again in 2016 because of a complex migraine condition that caused extreme fatigue and announced his retirement at the end of that season. He spent the next two years as a personnel adviser for the Broncos, primarily analyzing draft prospects.