MINNEAPOLIS – The offense Gary Kubiak began building with Mike Shanahan over 25 years ago transformed the NFL. The system's principles -- play-action attacks that limit passing volume while emphasizing the run -- are used in the systems of Matt LaFleur, Kevin Stefanski, Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan.
Kubiak ran his system one more time with the Minnesota Vikings in 2020 as the offensive coordinator before announcing his retirement two weeks ago. To replace Kubiak, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer couldn't trust just anyone to take the torch. Not if continuity was the goal.
Enter Klint Kubiak, the 33-year-old son of Gary who takes over as offensive coordinator this season, which will be his third in Minnesota.
It was basically a foregone conclusion that Klint would soon take the reins of the offense. The Vikings had to go to someone who knows how Gary Kubiak thinks and can carry out his process. The scheme is complicated, from the verbiage down to the intricate footwork for quarterbacks on three-, five- and seven-step drops. There are other versions of this offense being run across the NFL, but it's not the same as what the Vikings ran the past two seasons.
Klint Kubiak isn't a proven commodity as a playcaller, but he has been around this scheme his entire career. He spent the past two seasons under his father as quarterbacks coach in Minnesota after three years in Denver, the first of which (2016) Gary Kubiak spent as the head coach of the Broncos.
Zimmer opted for continuity because he believes this scheme best suits the talents of quarterback Kirk Cousins and weapons like running back Dalvin Cook, wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen and tight end Irv Smith Jr.
That's why the Vikings interviewed Giants wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert for the offensive coordinator opening last week. Tolbert coached under Gary Kubiak during the Broncos' run to Super Bowl 50 and would have brought the same offense with him to Minnesota.
Either way, Cousins was going to be on his fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons. At least this time he won't be starting over.
It's uncertain if Klint Kubiak will be an extension of his father. We have very little insight on his own philosophies and skills as a playcaller because he hasn't done it at the college or NFL level.
He has shown the coaching staff and players he's capable of transitioning from standing in front of the team on Fridays to deliver the red zone scouting report to leading the entire unit.
The Vikings didn't have to learn new terminology when Stefanski left Minnesota to become the Cleveland Browns head coach after last season. That's another added bonus. This was Gary Kubiak's offense then and it should remain that way going forward.
It remains to be seen how insulated Klint Kubiak will be in his first stint as an offensive coordinator. Several sources believe Gary Kubiak won't fully walk away from football and will remain part of the team by moving back into an advisor role. In doing so, he could stay in the game without the full-time responsibility and stress that comes with calling plays.
Minnesota also has offensive line coach/run game coordinator Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani, two trusted confidants of the elder Kubiak, on staff. Klint Kubiak will have plenty of places to seek guidance as he tries to develop his own identity as a playcaller.