MINNEAPOLIS – Former Denver Broncos coach and player Gary Kubiak, who spent last season as an offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, retired Thursday after a 36-year career as a player, coach and adviser in the NFL. The decision was widely expected.
“It’s been the honor of my lifetime to work for 36 seasons as an NFL player and coach,” Kubiak said in a statement. “I’ve been on a football field for most of my life, and now I look forward to stepping away from the game and enjoying more time with my family and friends.
“I offer my sincere thanks to the owners and fans of the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers for giving me opportunities to be a part of this great game and for treating me and my family so well over the years. I’ll miss the competition, the planning, game days and being part of a team. But, more than anything, I’ll cherish the friendships I’ve made along the way with players, coaches and staff. I love the game of football and will forever be its biggest fan.”
The 59-year-old Kubiak joined the Vikings in 2018 as an offensive adviser. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer asked him to become the primary play-caller when Kevin Stefanski was hired as Cleveland’s head coach.
Kubiak steered Minnesota’s most productive offense in more than a decade last season. The Vikings ranked fourth in the league in total yards and tied for sixth in offensive touchdowns.
Kubiak participated in seven Super Bowls as a player or coach, winning four titles. His most recent ring came after the 2015 season as the head coach for Denver, the team he played nine years for as a backup quarterback. He stepped down from that post after two seasons for health reasons, which also ended an eight-year run as head coach in his native Houston.
Kubiak is the only individual to play, coach and work in the Broncos front office. He went 24-11 as the broncos’ head coach, including the Super Bowl 50 win. He spent a total of 24 seasons with the Broncos.
“The Denver Broncos congratulate Gary Kubiak on an incredible 36-year career in the NFL,” Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. “Few people have impacted one team in more ways than Gary over his 24 seasons with the Broncos. Part of six Super Bowl appearances – including three wins – with the Broncos as a player, assistant coach, head coach and personnel executive, Gary will always have a special place in our championship history. He is an outstanding coach who did a masterful job leading us to a win in Super Bowl 50, deftly navigating that season with tremendous instincts and feel every step of the way. On behalf of the Broncos, we wish Gary all the best in his retirement. We also recognize and thank his wife, Rhonda, for her unwavering support of our organization throughout Gary’s time with the Broncos.”
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt tweeted his admiration and congratulations, calling Kubiak the quintessential players’ coach “who knew how to grind when it was time to grind and when to have a beer with you when it was time for a beer.”
NFL rules require the Vikings to interview at least one external minority candidate for the vacancy. Kubiak’s son, Klint Kubiak, is currently the quarterbacks coach and expected to receive strong consideration for the job to satisfy Zimmer’s desire to maintain continuity on that side of the ball.
“Gary did a tremendous job with us at the Vikings over the past two seasons. I have a great deal of respect for him as a coach and as a person, and I’m glad I was able to coach with him. He has had one heck of an NFL career as a player, assistant coach and head coach, and I am really happy for Gary and his wife Rhonda as they head off to their ranch,” Zimmer said in a statement. “We will all miss Gary at the Vikings organization and wish him the very best.”
The Durango Herald contributed to this report.