Wade Phillips Hired by Gary Kubiak as the Defensive Coordinator in Denver
Photo by Marco Torres
So the construction (or reconstruction, as it were) of Gary Kubiak's coaching staff in Denver is now complete.
On the heels of announcing earlier in the week that Reggie Herring, who coached linebackers for Kubiak in Houston, would be taking on that exact same role with the Broncos, the announcement was made yesterday that Wade Phillips, after a year out of football, would be returning to the game as Kubiak's defensive coordinator, a position he also held in Houston for three seasons.
In fact, for a majority of the positions that really matter on Kubiak's coaching staff, the Mad Libs phrase "he also coached _______ for Kubiak in Houston" applies. Just fill in the blank with any football coaching function, and in all likelihood, this would be a true statement for the applicable Broncos' staff member.
So I ask you, Broncos fans, how does that make you feel? After peeling away all of the warm, fuzzy feelings of your son returning home, how do you truly feel?
I ask this because your team's management has basically reassembled the same staff that secured the number one overall pick in the 2014 draft by going 2-14 in 2013.
In the press conference introducing Kubiak as the team's 15th head coach, the team's president (and franchise icon), John Elway, was asked about Kubiak's ability to take this team to the "next level". Here was his answer:
"I think talking about getting to the next level, and I think Gary said it, we've got to get through the first business, get ourselves in position to have that chance. Now, is it going to work out every time? No, it's not going to work out every time. We'd like to say it is, but there are a lot of things that have to happen for you once you get into January to be able to win a World Championship. Things have got to fall for you right too. You've got to be playing your best football. But also, there's a piece of that puzzle that is, part of it is you've got to get a little bit lucky. The ball's got to bounce your way to be World Champions. So sure, I know that's part of what it is. But the reason I know is Gary's been there. Gary's done it, he's seen it. He understands, he's been there; he's won a World Championship with Mike (Shanahan). And so he's seen it. He's been with the Baltimore Ravens, who have won several World Championships. He's seen how they do it. Now, that's not the guarantee we're going to get it done. We're going to do everything we can to get it done. And that's our goal to get it done. We talked about comments that this is a place that it's win a championship or nothing. That's how it's always been. Nothing's changing there. That's what Pat Bowlen wants. And that's why it's great that Gary's experience here being a Denver Bronco, he understands that. So my job is to give Gary as much support as we can. Joe and Pat, they do a tremendous job with the resources that they give us at least to be able to do the best we can to be successful. And that's what we're going to do. And I know Gary's got the ability to do that. We want it to happen, sure. Are we going to guarantee it's going to happen? No. But the one thing we can guarantee is that we're going to work our tail off to try to get it done. And as I said, my job is to give Gary as much support as I can and give these players the support that we can. That's my job. And I'm going to do everything I can to be able to get ourselves in that position. It's up to players to play and coaches to coach."
Two words that are not mentioned once in Elway's meandering diatribe about why he thinks Kubiak can take them to the next level -- Houston Texans. Several mentions of how Gary Kubiak understands what the Broncos are all about. A mention of how Kubiak watched the Ravens organization function with their championship culture.
But not a single, solitary mention of the Houston Texans, which is relevant because that's where Kubiak, y'know, actually was the head coach for eight seasons.
If there was one thing that Kubiak was unable to do during his time in Houston, it was get to the next level. When he finally had a division winner in 2011 and 2012, the Texans were gone before the conference title games (admittedly, 2011 was with a third-string QB, so Kubiak is not fully culpable there). In 2012, with his hand-picked QB healthy all season, the team choked away a first-round bye with a 1-3 finish and routinely lost to teams with better quarterbacks (blown out by Rodgers, Brady and Luck).
After his first two seasons, Kubiak's Houston teams overachieved against expectations once (2011), and when the expectations were the highest (2013), the results were literally the worst. The WORST. Worst in the league.
Now, I'm not issuing a death sentence on Kubiak's head coaching career. Let's face it, he will have resources in Denver, already has a talented roster, and if Peyton Manning is healthy, Kubiak has one of the greatest quarterbacks ever pulling the trigger. This will be a good football team. And you only need to look as far as Phoenix this week to know that head coaches can reinvent themselves a little bit and come back better the second (or in Pete Carroll's case, the third) time around.
Clearly, Kubiak needs to change something about his process that he used in Houston. The most important part about being a head coach is hiring, who you surround yourself with.
Dennison, Pariani, Kollar, Herring, Phillips.
Kubiak is surrounding himself with the exact same staff that topped out at "above average" in Houston, an early indication that perhaps he hasn't really changed at all.
If you're a Broncos fan, once you're done sweeping up the confetti from celebrating the hire of a head coach who went 61-64 in eight seasons on the job in Houston, just know that you're no closer to the next level than you were with John Fox.
The new faces are just friendlier, that's all.