Although Gary Kubiak was never a member of Dan Reeves ‘coaching staff, he could easily be considered a member of Reeves’ coaching tree.
For nearly a decade, Kubiak served as a reserve quarterback behind John Elway and worked closely with Reeves, who has been the head coach for Kubiak’s entire playing career. Kubiak learned a lot from Reeves during this run, and as Kubiak’s playing career drew to a close, Reeves recognized his potential as a coach. Although they had never worked together in the coaching profession, Reeves still had a profound impact on the future Super Bowl 50-winning coach by triggering his future in the profession.
After Reeves passed away on Saturday, Kubiak told us about his time with Reeves, how the two have stayed in touch over the years, and the memories he will cherish from their time together.
What kind of impact did Dan have on you?
“[I had] just immense respect for him. Obviously, I mean, he drafted me. I played for him for nine years. Really, in a lot of ways he kind of raised me as a player and then I became a coach and I was sitting there working with him. I was a backup behind John, so I was with Dan for a big, big part of my career. Wonderful man. I have stayed in touch with him over the years. [He] came and spent a few weeks with us on our Super Bowl run in 2015. He actually came to spend about a week with us. His son-in-law, Joe DeCamillis, was working for me there at the time. It’s just really hard. Truly a great person, a great NFL career as a player, coach, assistant coach, head coach – you name it. And a good man. “
How did he influence your decision to become a coach?
“He had a lot to do with it. In fact, when I retired my senior year [as a player], he tried to convince me to stay there and train with him and start my coaching career with him. I just felt like I had to go, sort of, make a living so to speak. I returned to college football and coached for a few years before returning to the NFL. But he gave me my first chance. He tried to hire me when he was with the Giants. I went downstairs and spent some time with him. But I never really coached with him. Funny how things work. But he’s been a great friend throughout my life. And actually, I was just in Atlanta two weeks ago for Demaryius’ [celebration of life ceremony] and we sat down with Chan Gailey, and talked about him for a long, long time. It’s just very unfortunate, and we hate to see it. “
What do you remember about that time in 2015 when he came to Denver to be on the team?
“Joe D. told me he was coming to town. And so I know he sat with my wife in his dressing room during that game.… It was Green Bay, Rhonda told me, so I think it was when they were inducted Mr. Bowlen [into the Ring of Fame]. … That’s why he came to town. He sat down with my wife and spent time training. I let him sit in the meetings with the players, I introduced him to our players. All the guys, they knew who he was. He sat down at the back of the room and watched us do our business. It was pretty cool. He came to train, so that’s something you treasure when you think about it. It was very cool.”
What kind of standard did Dan set for the franchise?
“When I look at him he was with the Cowboys, [and] the Cowboys were kind of the standard way back then. He had an opportunity from there. I think he was the youngest coach in the NFL when the Broncos hired him, and he brought the way from Dallas to Denver. It happens in a lot of things in football, right? I mean, people [say], “Hey, we want to do it the Patriot way,” or, “Hey, we want to do it that way. So Dan sort of came to Denver and brought his way to Dallas [and] the Dallas offensive that worked for [Hall of Famer Tom] Landry all these years. So it was really, when you think about it, really special to be a part of it, to learn from him and to spend those quality years with him. “
When I think back to a video of his time here or newspaper clippings, I see a lot about Dan that speaks to the importance of character. How much did that play with his approach?
“Absolutely. The most important thing is back when you had teams, they stayed together for a long time. Football [didn’t have] free agency as it is now, where the teams change so drastically from year to year. My nine years in Denver, our team has remained somewhat intact. John was our guy, and damn it, I think our offensive line stayed intact for a long, long time. The players weren’t moving as much. A lot of guys have played for him for a long time. You know what I mean? If you go back and look – and I can’t speak for the other guys – but that’s how football was back then. But boy, he has stood the test of time. Then he went to New York and he got it, and he went to Atlanta and he got it. Just a great career. “
What are the moments that you cherish the most right now when you think about them? Is it the championships or maybe just being together in meeting rooms all the time?
“I’ll give you a good example. I remember when we were playing for him the day before games. Back then we weren’t staying in hotels and everything. We had to stay home. But he would have me and John. would come over to his house and have meetings. Dan was a host and we would go to his house and go over the game plan and go through the pieces and go over everything. I remember ’em, damn it, like it was yesterday, there in Cherry Creek on the way to Dan. Just stuff like that, it was really cool. The game was a little different back then, but he was very likeable.… The job he has fact and all the success the Bronco organization has had, Dan was obviously a good start for that. “
Is there anything else you would like to add as you think about it?
“I love him. He’s a wonderful man. And when you really sit down, like I did this morning, and think about what he did in the National Football League as a player and a coach and how long he’s been in it, you look at that career, it’s pretty special.… Boy, he’s had a great, very successful life. A good man and a great family man, and he will be missed by all of us. . “