After Gary Kubiak's time as Houston Texans head coach ended abruptly and somewhat ignominiously on a Friday morning in early December, speculation began in earnest during the holidays as to what Kubiak would choose to do next.
An interview with the Detroit Lions for a head coaching job that eventually went to Jim Caldwell just two seasons after going 2-14 in Indianapolis seemed to indicate that Kubiak's head coaching career might regrow legs sooner than expected.
Rumors of interest from the Cleveland Browns for a spot as offensive coordinator seemed to make more sense, and were an indicator that perhaps Kubiak's being employed in 2014 would eventually be up to him.
Then again, smiling pictures from the Ragin Cajun perhaps foreshadowed an immediate future of eating gumbo, drinking beer and posing for shots with Texans fans.
In the end, for Gary Kubiak, the path back to head coaching in the NFL runs through Baltimore.
On Monday, Gary Kubiak was named the next offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, who are looking to bounce back from an 8-8 season in 2013 just one year after winning Super Bowl XLVII. Rick Dennison, Kubiak's offensive coordinator in Houston, will join him in Baltimore as their quarterbacks coach.
To call fixing Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco Kubiak's "first order of business" would be to imply that it's a task that can be accomplished in short order and crossed off of some sort of coordinator to-do list. It's much more than that. It's a season-long project for which failure is not an option, given Flacco's $120 million contract signed last offseason.
That deal forced the Ravens to make some hard decisions last offseason, decisions which resulted in free agents like Dannell Ellerbe's and Paul Kruger's leaving for richer deals and the trade of wide receiver (and Flacco security blanket) Anquan Boldin's to San Francisco for a measly sixth round pick, for salary cap purposes.
Franchise quarterbacks (Flacco, while not one in terms of play, is certainly being paid like one) must cover up the flaws and cap-caused holes on a roster, not exacerbate them. In 2013, Flacco went from 22 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions the previous season to 19 TD passes and a dismal 22 interceptions. He was a HUGE minus as a player, especially considering his salary.
When asked about Flacco, Kubiak reflected at Monday's press conference:
"This league's about rebounding," Kubiak said. "You're going to have tough times, tough days. Maybe some years don't go the way you want them to go. But you keep battling. It's just about the long haul. There's no doubt in my mind when it's all said and done, Joe's a championship quarterback. But there's a lot of great things still to be done and I look forward to being part of that."
(Good to see Kubiak get his first use of "battling" out of the way in his first Ravens press conference.)
The comments were the first that Kubiak has made publicly since being let go as the Texans' head coach on December 6 after an 11-game losing streak that began, ironically, in Baltimore in Week 3 with a 30-9 loss to the Ravens.
Baltimore has become a soft landing spot in recent seasons for former Texans, with wide receiver Jacoby Jones and fullback Vonta Leach reportedly pushing Ravens head coach John Harbaugh hard to bring in Kubiak:
"Jacoby and Vonta both, early on, got a hold of me and recommended that we go in this direction," Harbaugh said. "They thought that was something that would work right away. I think they're both pretty excited about it."
For Kubiak's part, if indeed this is the first step back to becoming a head coach again, this is about as good as he could expect to do in terms of being set up to succeed. He has a potential franchise quarterback in Flacco, a great general manager (Ozzie Newsome) who should replenish the offense with some weapons in areas where they were deficient last season, and a head coach in Harbaugh whose worst finish in six seasons as a head coach was last year's 8-8 mark.
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In short, the Ravens are set up well to rebound offensively and win games next season, all of which will reflect well on Kubiak.
Kubiak should be well served in being around a different coaching tree and outside the cocoon of the Shanahan/Denver "way," with a tremendous opportunity to simultaneously restore his reputation as a quarterback guru ("Schaub 2013 cleanup," we will call that) and absorb new wrinkles he can add to his head coaching methodology while observing one of the best in the business in Harbaugh.
For the record, Baltimore will play sometime in Houston next season.