Don't Hate Kubiak; Replacements Emerge
We're sad, but we're not mad. Right, Baltimore?
Ravens Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak reportedly agreed to a four-year deal as the Denver Broncos head coach, a week after stating he would remain in Baltimore. You'll hear lots of ticked off fans saying Kubiak lied, but he didn't.
He was planning on living in Baltimore year-round, and was even building a house near the Ravens' Under Armour Performance Center, per The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson. He clicked with quarterback Joe Flacco and enjoyed being a coordinator again.
He stated his honest intentions, but then his dream job opened up.
At the time Kubiak made the statement, he was withdrawing his name from head-coaching gigs for the New York Jets, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers. It seems obvious now that he didn't know his good friend of 32 years, Broncos General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football John Elway, would part ways with John Fox, and the city where he has 20 years would come calling.
Kubiak spent countless hours with Elway on bus rides, plane trips and meeting*rooms *as teammates and colleagues. They are on the same page. Barring retirement, Kubiak will likely inherit future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, who ran the root of Kubiak's offense for four years in Indianapolis. There's been talk that Manning isn't mobile enough for the bootleg play-action system, but ESPN's Trent Dilfer thinks the run-first mentality could extend Manning's career by two or three years. And it's Manning and Kubiak, after all. I'm sure they can figure something out.
It was all too good to pass up, statement or no statement.
Shoot, his youngest son, Klein Kubiak, is working as an intern in the Broncos' personnel department. Check out his Twitter message, welcoming his dad "home."
The Broncos bent over backwards to get him.
"Kubiak wasn't treated like the other two candidates the Broncos did interview," wrote The Denver Post's Mike Klis. The other candidates flew to Dove Valley, Colo. for their interviews, but not Kubiak. No, the Broncos wanted him "so badly" that Elway and a contingency flew to Texas and met with Kubiak at a Houston hotel.
The interview lasted about five hours before they celebrated with dinner at Morton's Steakhouse.
Yes it hurts. It's a blow.
But don't confuse disappointment with anger toward Kubiak. When he was first hired by the Ravens a year ago, he was largely considered a one-and-done coach in Baltimore anyway.
"Ravens fans are ticked, but I get impression that people within the org. have no ill will toward Kubiak," The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec tweeted. "They recognize that Denver was dream situation for him."
Potential Replacements Emerge, Including Gase
The Ravens have known for days that Kubiak had a good shot of leaving, and as such, they've been "plotting contingency plans," says Wilson.
The only problem is the pool of candidates has already diminished by three.
There were rumors over the weekend that the Ravens would be interested in former Quarterbacks Coach Rick Dennison or former Tight Ends Coach Brian Pariani. But just as they followed Kubiak to Baltimore, they will also follow him to Denver, according to multiple reports.
As far as an outside candidate, Kyle Shanahan's name persisted all weekend, given the fact that he was one of the top contenders last year before Kubiak entered the picture. But Shanahan will reportedly become the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
So, the Ravens will have to look elsewhere.
Per Zrebiec, four names that Harbaugh could consider are former Chicago Bears Head Coach Marc Trestman, former Broncos Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase, former Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and Broncos Quarterbacks Coach Greg Knapp.
"Sunday's developments leave the Ravens weighing the merits of a group of candidates that includes Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, whom the Ravens regard highly," wrote Wilson.
"Gase, 36, is considered one of the brightest young offensive minds in the game, and comes highly recommended by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. His ability to create matchup problems and work with quarterbacks to build effective game plans is considered his greatest strength as a coach."
Gase never played in college or the pros like Kubiak, but he's been the man talking into Manning's* *headset between plays. Manning called him the "smartest guy I know," Fox called him "a master of innovation" and Elway described him as a "genius."
Gase has been in high demand as he's already interviewed, but didn't land, the head coaching jobs in San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta. The Jacksonville Jaguars are reportedly interested in him for their offensive coordinator position, and of course he could be a candidate to remain as Fox's coordinator in Chicago after playing that role in Denver.
There is also Knapp if he doesn't remain in Denver. He was the quarterbacks coach last year, but it's unclear what his role would be with the arrival of three former Ravens coaches. Ravens brass also hold Knapp in "high regard," wrote Wilson.
Baltimore will face plenty of competition for the top remaining coaches. There are still seven teams that need an offensive coordinator.
This year, the Ravens are already ahead of where they were last year in their quest for a new coordinator, given the detailed and exhaustive search Head Coach John Harbaugh conducted last offseason.
"The Ravens aren't necessarily in a rush to hire Kubiak's successor," Wilson wrote. "The current coaching staff will oversee one of the Pro Bowl teams this week in Arizona, and the personnel department will be at the Senior Bowl all-star game this week in Mobile, Ala., scouting draft prospects.
"Given Harbaugh's thorough research during last year's interview process, he should have plenty of background information as he begins his latest search for a new offensive coordinator."
Five Kubiak Consequences
With Kubiak's move set to become official on Tuesday, when he will reportedly be introduced to Denver as the head coach, there are five consequences that will hit Baltimore, per The Sun's Jon Meoli:
1) Fourth coordinator in four years for Flacco
"Flacco has handled it well before, but not getting a second season under Kubiak would be a huge blow to him and the offense."
2) Justin Forsett could walk
"Justin Forsett's 1,266-yard season will make him a hot commodity, but is he worth as much to the Ravens outside Kubiak's system? Forsett doesn't have the mileage of other seventh-year backs, but it will be difficult to separate his performance from the system when determining his value."
3) Can the offensive line repeat success?
"After a down year, the Ravens' offensive line took well to Kubiak's run-first mentality. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo will likely remain in place, but again, separating the line's great year from Kubiak's scheme may prove difficult to do."
4) Tight end depth could "disappear"
"With Dennis Pitta coming off a second hip injury, Owen Daniels' possible return is important to the team's tight end depth. Daniels, a free agent, could follow Kubiak yet again, leaving only Crockett Gillmore as a guarantee at that important position."
5) Pro Bowl staff short-handed
C.J. Mosley Has Competition For DPOY
Linebacker C.J. Mosley might not be the shoo-in many predicted for the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
"Mosley has to be a slam dunk to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, right? Not necessarily," wrote EPSN's Jamison Hensley.
Mosley may get some serious competition from St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who was named the Pro Football Writers of America's Defensive Rookie of the Year. Donald led all rookies with nine sacks in 2014.
Meanwhile, Mosley was the only NFL defender to notch at least 125 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions last year.
The announcement will come Jan. 31, the night before the Super Bowl.
Kiper Mock Draft: Ravens Take WR/TE Devin Funchess
With the 26th overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Ravens select Michigan's Devin Funchess, says ESPN's Mel Kiper.
What position does he play? That depends on which scout you ask. Funchess has been considered both a wide receiver and tight end. The junior played his first two years at Michigan as a tight end and was considered a top prospect at the position, but he switched to wide receiver in 2014.
"It's not really fair to call Funchess a tight end based on where he typically lines up, but at more than 6-foot-4 and at about 235 pounds with the ability to simply overpower most cornerbacks, he's not exactly a flanker, either," wrote Kiper.
"What I'd call him is a perpetual matchup problem, a guy you can move around, with the quickness to run crisp routes and easily create space if linebackers try to cover him and enough size to make cornerbacks have to go through him for the ball. Joe Flacco can use a weapon like Funchess, as could Gary Kubiak, assuming he passes on any other overtures."
- "This means the Ravens have lost five coaches over the past six days: Kubiak, Dennison, Pariani, secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo (who became the New York Giants' defensive coordinator) and offensive quality control assistant Jay Harbaugh (who became the University of Michigan's tight ends coach)," wrote Hensley.
- And he did ….
The Super Bowl matchup has been set between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. The Seahawks will advance after pulling off a thrilling 28-22 upset in overtime against the Green Bay Packers after being down by 16. Then, there was a dud in New England. The Patriots blew out the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7.