Gary Kubiak: Pros and Cons

 “He’s great at what he does. He does a good job of game-planning against things they see on film, finding little mismatches here and there. For me, he’s helped my career out a lot. Just moving me around. Before he got here, I just pretty much stayed in one place; I was the split end, the X receiver. When he got here, they just started moving me around a lot trying to find ways to get me the ball.” 

-Andre Johnson 

I think we can all agree that Torrey Smith is in that boat. We would all appreciate if Gary Kubiak can do the same for him that he did for Andre Johnson.

Much debate has gone on leading up to, and since the hiring of the Ravens new Offensive Coordinator, Gary Kubiak. He was chosen over in house candidate, Jim Hostler after an odd 24 hours where Hostler was told he had the job, and later told otherwise. Time to move forward now as Gary Kubiak is the guy. No such thing as perfection in the NFL, but he’s what most think is the best guy for the job. There are some good things Kubiak brings to the Ravens, a few red flags that worry us,  and things we just have to wait and see how they play out.

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The pros vs. cons of Gary Kubiak.

Pros

Wealth of knowledge – Gary Kubiak sat in on meetings, breaking down film with Hall of Famer, John Elway, for 13 years. Nine years as his backup quarterback and four as his offensive coordinator and QB coach. In between that stint with the Broncos, he won a Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1994 as Steve Young’s QB coach. Mike Shanahan, San Francisco’s OC under George Seifert in 1994, took Kubiak with him to Denver the following year. It’s that knowledge he passed on successfully to Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Matt Schuab, and now Joe Flacco will be the benefactor.

Fresh eyes – It’s what the Ravens offense needed. Someone fresh to come in and talk to these guys, watch film with them, figure out how to get more out the 29th ranked unit a year ago. I have to think a promotion from within would have led to more of the same output. Someone in house might show an unwillingness to change.

Ray Rice getting more involved – Kubiak loves running the ball, even though he’s a west coast offense disciple. His spin on it is the zone blocking scheme that churned out 1,000 yard backs, no matter who was toting the rock. In the WCO, Rice will also see more receiving options. Rice in open space is a dangerous thing for opposing defenses (Rice’s health permitting).

WCO involves short passing – More high percentage passes leads to more completions and more manageable down and distance situations. Have to love that.

Kubiak likes play action and bootlegs – Flacco operates much better out of the play action to the tune of a 90.7 passer rating. Bootlegs will move the pocket making it harder for pass rushers to take a direct route to the QB. This will give Joe Flacco more time to find receivers downfield when they do dial up the deep ball.

Cons

Adjusting to running the zone blocking scheme – We know this past season the Ravens made a half-hearted effort at utilizing the ZBS. Kubiak is all-in for using it, so there is no grey area. It’s here. But it takes linemen who move laterally well to make it work. Ozzie mentioned wanting to get “bigger on the interior line”. If they stick with  mantra, they’ll have big guys who may not be light on their feet. Communication and discipline are key in ZBS success. With possibly two newcomers on the line in 2014, I could see it taking time for everyone to get on the same page. Is this going to be an excuse if for some reason the run game fails to get rolling again?

Smallish O-line – Athletic linemen are needed to make those stretch run plays that Gary Kubiak draws up so well work. What about 3rd and 1, 4th and inches, goal to go from inside the five? Not having big linemen make it hard to grind out the tough yards.

Rick Dennison is the QB coach – He played linebacker for the Broncos for nine years, eight of which while Kubiak was a teammate. He was an offensive line coach for six seasons, a special teams coach for four, and offensive coordinator under Kubiak (though Kubiak calls the plays) for seven years. What does he know about coaching quarterbacks? I’m reaching here, but maybe with his linebacker experience, he can teach Flacco more about reading defenses. Maybe as an O-line coach he can teach Joe what to expect his linemen to do in certain situations. Reaching, I know.

Flacco has to cut back on the deep balls – West coast offenses rarely use tight ends and running backs as extra pass blockers. Those guys are running short passing routes as an extension of the run game. We’ve seen a number of times last year where Flacco would pass up an open receiver 8-10 yards away, to heave a 40 yard pass into double coverage. Part of that is because Air Coryell is predicated on deep passing, so Flacco already has it in his head to look there first. Kubiak’s offense will give Joe those chances, but not as often as he’s used to and Flacco can’t force the issue. He has to take what defenses will give him in the short game.

Questions going forward

How much control will Joe Flacco have? – One of the gripes from Texans fans is that Kubiak didn’t give Matt Schaub enough control of the offense. Kubiak held him back. Will Flacco, who people speak more highly of than Schaub, get the kind of a control a Manning or Brady get? Will he have freedom to make changes, or is Kubiak a “my way or the highway” guy? We can’t have Flacco giving more, “I just run what they tell me” quotes.

How good is his health? – He says he’s fine. I’m sure a doctor has said he’s fine or he wouldn’t be coaching. 99% sure it’s something we’ll never have to address. But if there’s an incident that causes him to miss more time, I guess Dennison takes over the offense. That is where I think we would have wanted Kyle Shanahan on board in some capacity.

Relationships among the coaching staff and front office – It was an odd time this past weekend that has been well documented, and doesn’t need to be rehashed. Is everybody good? No grudges between Harbaugh and Kubiak who wasn’t the head coaches first choice? No animosity between Hostler (if he stays on board) and Kubiak, since Kubiak practically took his job? Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome butted heads on the decision and now have to collaborate on the upcoming draft. Hopefully there is no spillover and everybody is on the same page. They all have the same vision, same goal of once again raising the Lombardi Trophy. Hope this is all water under the bridge and nothing clouds that vision.

Will Vonta Leach stay on the team? – Here’s a guy that shouldn’t have been retained in the first place. But after drafting a FB, they resign Leach to a two year deal. He would save the Ravens $1.75M if released. On the other hand, maybe Kubiak, very familiar with Leach, keeps him on board and actually uses him in the run game to pave the way for Rice and Pierce.

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About the author


Mike Randall  

Ravens Analyst

Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently residing in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Shortly after he started up a Baltimore area sports blog called The BOHpen. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010.


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2 Responses to Gary Kubiak: Pros and Cons

  1. Brian Adams says:

    The whole Harbaugh not wanting Kubiak and conflicting with Ozzie thing is a Mike Preston rumor, not a fact, and the Ravens say it is incorrect. Stop talking about it.

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