EAGAN - Gary Kubiak made one thing very clear on Tuesday: He enjoys his role with the Minnesota Vikings, and he has no interest in becoming a head coach again.
Kubiak joined the Vikings in the offseason as an assistant head coach and offensive advisor to Mike Zimmer. The Vikings had had to revamp the offense after finished the 2018 season 8-7-1 and missing the playoffs for the third time in five seasons under Zimmer. The primary concern was getting back to running the football.
The Vikings were the No. 30-ranked rushing offense in the NFL last season. Through 11 games this season, they’re third in the NFL, averaging 142.5 yards per game. They have the No. 2 rusher in the league with Dalvin Cook, who went over 1,000 yards for the season in Sunday’s comeback win over the Denver Broncos.
So is he getting the itch to become a head coach again?
“No it has not given me the itch. I'm doing just fine. I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I had my chance to be the head coach, I really enjoyed it but I'm enjoying what I'm doing now,” Kubiak said.
Kubiak, between playing and coaching, has been involved in seven Super Bowls. He lost three as a player with the Denver Broncos, then won three as an assistant coach with the Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. He won Super Bowl 50 as the head coach of the Broncos, then stepped away from the game after the 2016 season due to health concerns.
Kubiak came to Minnesota in the offseason to implement his zone blocking run schemes into the Vikings’ offense. Mike Zimmer said last week that Kubiak “is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me since I’ve been here.”
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said Tuesday Kubiak has become a confidant to Zimmer. The two often spend time together in team offices talking football, talking life as the Vikings progress through the season. Kubiak has become that new confidant since the death of offensive line coach Tony Spirano before last season.
After all, Kubiak knows Zimmer’s territory. He’s been a head coach, and he’s done it at a high level.
"I think just that experience, and the one thing I know Coach Zim, that he missed last year I think a lot, with the passing of Tony Sparano, was that confidant that's been there, that's sat in the same position that Zim is, to go there and bounce different things off of, to learn and ask him about, 'Have you ever experienced this before, that experience?'” Spielman said. “I know he asks him questions all the time."
Facing former teams is not a new concept in the NFL, but it went to a different level last Sunday as the Vikings hosted the Broncos at U.S. Bank Stadium. Kubiak played with the Broncos from 1983 to 1991, spent 10 seasons there as an assistant coach from 1995 to 2005 before being the head coach in 2015 and 2016.
He saw plenty of friends and former colleagues before last Sunday’s comeback win for the Vikings.
“If you stick around long enough in this league you're probably playing somebody you know every week. That was different. Obviously I'm very grateful for my career there,” Kubiak said. “I spent a lot of time there so it was cool to see a lot of people that I was a part of some good things with.”
His most important role right now is being a mentor to offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. The Vikings are third in the NFL in rushing and ninth in total offense. Kubiak considers himself a mentor to Stefanski as the two work weekly to find ways for Kirk Cousins to evolve as a quarterback, and to get the ball to the likes of Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen (when healthy), Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Alexander Mattison and even Bisi Johnson.
“Everyone wants to just help each other and everyone wants to work together to ultimately achieve our goal,” Spielman said.
If Stefanski continues having success this season, his phone will start ringing once it’s over as a head coaching candidate. That process actually started last season. He was one of the finalists for the job in Cleveland.
“I think Kevin’s got a brilliant future,” Kubiak said.
One thing Kubiak doesn’t miss about being a head coach? Dealing with the media daily and weekly.
On more than one occasion Tuesday, Kubiak went out of his way to dismiss the possibility of being a head coach again.
“I’m enjoying what I’m doing right now, so I’m just fine. I’ll do a drive-by about every eight weeks, how ‘bout that?” Kubiak joked. That's not for me anymore. I'm enjoying what I'm doing.”