(Editor’s note: Kubiak was hired by Denver on Sunday night after this was published earlier in the day.)
Waiting on the inevitable.
That’s what it’s come to for the Ravens as all signs point directly to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak becoming the next head coach of the Denver Broncos. According to ESPN, the sides will meet in Houston — where Kubiak lives — Sunday and the 53-year-old will accept the job if it’s offered by general manager John Elway.
A formal announcement reportedly wouldn’t come until Tuesday following the Martin Luther King holiday.
Below are five thoughts on Kubiak’s expected departure:
1. Kubiak didn’t pull a fast one on the Ravens.
Yes, the timing of Kubiak’s statement committing to staying in Baltimore last Sunday night was peculiar amidst the whispers about John Fox being let go in Denver, but labeling him Benedict Arnold is too harsh as he enjoyed being in Baltimore and even bought a home here. After 20 years with the Broncos as a player and assistant coach, Kubiak likely wouldn’t have reconsidered his stance for any other job but this one. The truth is he had committed to the Ravens for less than 24 hours before the Broncos job became available and the timing of his expected departure isn’t much different from when Jim Caldwell accepted the Detroit job on Jan. 14 of last year, so the Ravens aren’t “behind” in the search with their season having ended only last Saturday. If some want to call Kubiak disloyal, they can, but many of them would have also clamored for his dismissal if the offense faltered next year.
2. Even with the uncertainties, the Denver job is still a good one.
Make no mistake, there will be much to figure out for Kubiak and the Broncos with the uncertain future of Peyton Manning and a less-than-enviable salary cap situation, but those trying to suggest the coordinator is taking a “bad” job must forget why most NFL head coaching positions come open in the first place — because those teams are bad. Even if Manning retires or flounders in one final year, the Broncos have proven they’re committed to winning and are considered one of the finer organizations in the NFL. Unlike many situations around the league, Kubiak has a long track record with Elway, who will practice more patience for his close friend and former teammate if things are rocky in the first year or two. You could make the argument that the Denver situation isn’t ideal for a potential offensive coordinator with the Manning factor, but there are only 32 head jobs to be had.
3. Baltimore knew this would be a possibility from the moment Kubiak was hired last January.
When the organization enticed Kubiak to come to Baltimore rather than take a year off following his dismissal in Houston, it wasn’t a secret that this could be a one-year marriage. Instead of lamenting over his departure, the Ravens will gladly take his fingerprints in moving forward with a 30-year-old quarterback in the prime of his career and an offensive line that showed plenty of stability and ability in a record-setting season for the offense. The Ravens have had plenty of success in the Harbaugh era, and the cost of doing good business is frequently having your assistants plucked away by other teams. With eight years of experience in Houston that included two AFC South titles, Kubiak warranted a second chance as a head coach at some point and Baltimore was aware that his hiring was unlikely to be a long-term fit.
4. The offensive line — not Joe Flacco — should be the first factor considered in finding his replacement.
The Ravens are facing the prospects of having their fourth offensive coordinator in four years, but the focus in hiring their new man should come with a goal of maintaining the success of the offensive line above anything else. The ability to run the football and protect the pocket were the biggest keys in Flacco having the finest regular season of his career. Assuming general manager Ozzie Newsome is able to add some more talent at wide receiver and tight end this offseason, Flacco will be fine in adjusting to a new offensive system, but the Ravens should find someone whose philosophy meshes will with Kubiak’s zone-blocking concepts that were executed so well by the current line. This is why Rick Dennison and Kyle Shanahan are such attractive options to replace Kubiak as very few adjustments would be needed.
5. Contrary to popular opinion, the Ravens will survive without Kubiak.
The Ravens are still just two years removed from a Super Bowl title that had nothing to do with the current offensive coordinator, making some of the fan panic over Kubiak’s departure somewhat amusing. It’s certainly disappointing to lose him, but Harbaugh has a track record of finding replacements who do just fine — and have even moved on to become head coaches themselves. The NFL is much more about having talent on the field than it is about brilliant offensive schemes as there are few secrets in how most offenses operate. With a strong front office and Harbaugh firmly in place, the Ravens will continue to be successful and Kubiak’s departure will register as little more than a speed bump in the big picture. With one of the better quarterbacks and offensive lines in the league, the new offensive coordinator will be walking into a good situation in Baltimore.