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Gary Kubiak Brings Play-Calling Know-How

Posted Jan 29, 2014

John Harbaugh said he wanted somebody with more extensive play-calling experience.


It’s only a matter of time before Baltimore’s arm-chair offensive coordinators are griping.

But know this: Gary Kubiak is widely considered one of the game’s best offensive play callers.

“It is a strength,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “Basically, we decided that if it works, it’s a good play call. We could all agree on that.”

There’s much more to being an offensive coordinator than calling plays.

There’s building a system, teaching it and coaching the players. There’s putting a game plan together that players can execute, and having confidence that players can have success with whatever is called, even if it may not be the best play.

But play calling is also an art, and an extremely important part of every game.

The Ravens had Jim Caldwell last year, but he had never been an NFL play caller before he replaced Cam Cameron at the end of the 2012 season.

After Caldwell left, Harbaugh was weighing other candidates with little NFL experience in that area. Ravens Wide Receivers Coach Jim Hostler was an offensive coordinator for one year in San Francisco. Former Washington Redskins Kyle Shanahan called plays for five years in Houston and Washington.

Kubiak has been calling offensive plays for most of his past 19 years in the NFL.

He did it both as the offensive coordinator in Denver and head coach in Houston. He gave Shanahan play-calling duties in Houston for one season in 2009. He handed it over to now Ravens Quarterbacks Coach Rick Dennison when he was out of the game due to a mini-stroke.

Kubiak will now be calling the Ravens’ offensive plays in Baltimore.

“I think that coaches who have done [play calling] for a long time and have a feel for that and have been in those situations before have an advantage that way,” Harbaugh said. “And that’s obviously something coach [Kubiak] has done.”

Kubiak coached Ravens fullback Vonta Leach for five years in Houston. Leach went to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2010 under Kubiak’s tenure.

“He’s got a feel for calling the game on the day,” Leach said. “He puts players in the best situations for them to be successful.”

Kubiak’s play calling has impressed not only those who play for him, but outside sources who have watched many of his games. CBS broadcaster and former NFL quarterback Phil Simms called him a “tremendous” play caller.

I think he’s the best in the NFL,” Simms said in 2012. “He knows how to keep his offensive line physical and how to keep his quarterback always in rhythm.”

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