Klint Kubiak never felt pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Though he was the coach’s kid growing up, and his father Gary Kubiak won a couple of Super Bowls as an assistant coach with Denver Broncos, Klint Kubiak always had different aspirations.
He didn’t want to coach in the NFL. He wanted to play in the NFL.
“I was naive enough as a player to think I would play in the NFL for 15 years, and I put all my time and energy into that,” said Kubiak, who started at safety for Colorado State before hanging up his cleats. “When that was over, I had the ability to be a graduate assistant and developed a love for the coaching side of it. It wasn’t something I planned on. It was something I grew to have a great passion for.”
That passion has led the 33-year-old Kubiak to his new role as offensive coordinator for the Vikings. He was promoted officially on Tuesday, taking the reins from his father, who announced his retirement last month.
It’s a big opportunity for Kubiak as he takes over an offense that ranked No. 4 in yards per game (393.3) and No. 11 in points per game (26.9) in the NFL last season. While he has some familiarity with the offense working as the team’s quarterback coach the past couple of seasons, Kubiak is now the man in charge of everything on that side of the ball, including play-calling for the first time in his coaching career.
“I’m going to have plenty to prove, though it has nothing to do with me,” Kubiak said. “It’s about the coaching staff, how we put together the plan, how detailed we are on Monday through Saturday. Then typically Sunday will take care of itself.”
Most of the people around Kubiak have been with the Vikings for at least a few seasons. That speaks to the continuity that coach Mike Zimmer is trying to maintain on offense.
Thus, whether it’s offensive line coach Rick Dennison, quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko, receivers coach Keenan McCardell, tight ends coach Brian Pariani or running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu, among others, Kubiak has a wealth of knowledge around him in his first year at the helm.
“I feel confident in the experience and the continuity I have around me,” Kubiak said. “I want those guys to challenge me and I want to challenge them so we can get the best out of each other. Because certainly we’re not going to go anywhere standing still and resting on our laurels.”
This job has been a decade in the making for Kubiak, who got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M in 2010. He parlayed that into a lower-level coaching position with the Vikings in 2013 and 2014, became the quarterbacks coach with the Broncos in 2016, then returned to Minnesota with his father a couple of seasons ago.
“The experience was invaluable,” Kubiak said. “I’ve been so fortunate to be around quality coaches and really high-character people. You learn to have success by doing things the right way. There’s so many different examples I could go through. I’ve been very blessed to be around so many different voices.”
Still, a big part of Kubiak’s success will be finding his own voice, and that starts with how he runs the offense. While there’s already an effective system in place, evidenced by the impressive numbers the Vikings’ offense put up last season, Kubiak will have to find ways to modernize the offense moving forward.
“If we don’t evolve, we’ll be left in the dust,” he said. “You’re always trying to find ways to evolve your scheme and try to make yourself less predictable. We don’t want to be rigid. We want to be open to growth so we can produce on Sunday.”
That’s something Kubiak has been learning from his father since he was a kid. Now he’s getting a chance to step out of his father’s shadow.
“It’s a blessing and curse being a coach’s kid,” Kubiak said. “The positives have outweighed the negatives. Just being around him and his friends my whole life has only brought the best out of me. The positives were learning how to work hard, how to organize your time, and how to value everybody around you and use their strengths for the betterment of the team. Just really blessed to be a coach’s kid. I’m proud of that.”