Back in 2013, after an 11th consecutive loss, this one a Thursday night embarrassment in Jacksonville, Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak was fired on a Friday morning in early December. Kubiak was absent from the press conference announcing his termination. Only owner Bob McNair and general manager Rick Smith (who, on that day, presumably cashed in the second of what have to be nine professional lives) were there to address the media.
Eight seasons, two playoff appearances and no good-byes. That was the end of Kubes in Houston.
Fast-forward to Monday morning, when Kubiak, on the heels of a two-season run as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, which included a Super Bowl win last February, had an opportunity to thank everyone from the equipment manager to his wife and "buddy," Rhonda, as the Broncos head coach opted to walk away from the game, citing health reasons and the taxing nature of the head coaching position in the NFL.
Certainly, Monday was probably not a day Kubiak ever wanted to envision when he took the Broncos job two years ago, only because of the brevity involved in leaving his "dream job" so soon. However, when he received multiple ovations from the media throng, staff members and players in attendance at the press conference, Kubiak had to feel solace in getting a chance to leave this time on his terms, with his dignity intact.
When the news broke Sunday morning that the game on Sunday against the Raiders would be Kubiak's last as the head coach of the Broncos, speculation was rampant as to the reason for the change. It's no secret that Kubiak's second season brought with it a much different set of challenges than his first, namely a) replacing the legendary Peyton Manning as a quarterback and team leader, and b) quelling burgeoning civil unrest in his locker room between the underperforming Bronco offense and the stout Bronco defense.
That said, as the Broncos defense ages and the offense continues to flounder, it's not a reach to say that the organization could be sitting on the cusp of a rebuilding cycle sometime soon, whether Kubiak had stayed or not. How much the long-term state of the roster factored into Kubiak's decision to say good-bye, if at all, only he knows.
For his part, Kubiak put the genesis of his decision entirely on his personal situation and his unflinchingly rigid adherence to "routine." (Yes, longtime Texans fan, Kubiak essentially said, in so many words, that the reasons for leaving are "on him." Appropriate, I know.) Kubiak followed a routine for a decade as a head coach, and when the only choice this season was deviating from that routine in order to address (presumably) his health issues, he couldn't do it. To anyone who has followed Kubiak's head coaching career, this should come as no surprise, that the man who retained virtually his entire Texans staff in Denver and has run the same plays for 20 years can't stray from his routine.
When Kubiak was hired as Denver's head coach in early 2015, following the firing of John Fox, there was a lot of skepticism that, perhaps, this was Broncos team president and GM John Elway's exercising some degree of cronyism, with Kubiak having served every role alongside Elway, from backup QB to position coach to coordinator.
However, Kubiak and Elway had the last laugh, as that same coaching staff that was unceremoniously (but correctly) ousted after a 2-14 season in Houston in 2013 hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in Santa Clara last February. Along the way, while the Broncos offense was mediocre at best, Kubiak did an underrated job of handling the "fading superstar" dynamic caused by Peyton Manning's eroding skills and the mini-emergence of backup Brock Osweiler.
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In Week 17 of 2015, Kubiak replaced Osweiler with Manning during a game against the Chargers and didn't look back. Three games later, the Broncos were world champions.
It took Kubiak a solid ten minutes or so during his barrage of "thank-yous" on Monday to finally use a variation of the word "retire" to describe his decision, perhaps a symbolic display of how hard accepting it will be for a guy who's been in football his whole life.
Would it surprise anyone if Kubiak was back on a sideline within the next few years, in some capacity?
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.