EAGAN, Minn. — As he enters his 25th overall season in the NFL, Gary Kubiak has seen a little bit of everything in the game of football.
The Vikings offensive coordinator has worked with Hall of Famers, built up a reputation as great offensive mind and, oh yeah, captured four total Super Bowls as a coach. (Kubiak won one as the Broncos head coach, captured two more as Denver's offensive coordinator and earned another as the quarterbacks coach with the 49ers).
Yet as he prepares to celebrate his silver anniversary in the league, Kubiak has had to be as adaptable as ever this (virtual) offseason because the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Well, I can tell you I know a hell of a lot more about computers than I did six months ago," Kubiak said with a laugh. "I've got [Vikings co-defensive coordinator] Andre [Patterson's] son, AC, who works for me, and Christian Jones, our two young [offensive quality control] coaches, they do a great job, and I've probably driven them crazy this year, but they taught me a lot.
"They taught me how to get this done on the computer. It just kind of motivates you again – a new way of doing things, how good of a job did you do, 'Did you teach well? Were they grasping it?' " Kubiak added. "I think we're going to find out all those things when it comes time to go back. It was definitely different, but as time went on, I thought it got better and better. And watching our coaches work, I was extremely impressed."
View photos of the Vikings 2020 coaching staff.
Kubiak is entering his 13th season overall as an offensive coordinator, but the 2020 season will be his first in Minnesota as a play caller. He was the team's assistant head coach/offensive advisor in 2019 and was hired in his current role after Kevin Stefanski was selected as the Browns head coach.
And while he said he thoroughly enjoyed his advisory role last year, he's happy to be back in the bullpen with the likes of tight ends coach Brian Pariani and offensive line coach/run game coordinator Rick Dennison, both of whom are longtime assistants and friends of Kubiak.
"First off, I don't want to use the word 'easy' for me, but I'm working with some guys I've worked a lot with throughout my career," Kubiak said of being a coordinator again. "You guys know that, so the transition is very smooth from that standpoint of what I'm trying to get done and how I want to go about doing it.
"I really enjoyed myself last year and I think you guys know that. I really enjoyed working for [Mike Zimmer] and Rick [Spielman] and our tremendous group of players," Kubiak added. "I'm really motivated and am excited to get going again. I really am. Hopefully we can get back on that field again here real soon. I feel fortunate that I'm getting a chance to contribute."
When Kubiak was named the Vikings offensive coordinator in late January, he was preparing for a normal offseason. But that landscape obviously changed in recent months due to the pandemic, as Kubiak holed himself up in a condo and instead conducted a virtual offseason.
And like many people over the past 90-plus days, he tried to get into a routine while now working from home.
"You try to get up like you're going to work every day, you stay in the same routine, try to have the same habits as you work with your players," Kubiak said. "Work on the things that you work on as a coach, be it the upcoming season, the opponents you're going to play, obviously our division, studying our division.
"Really just tried to keep your same routine but just doing it at home," Kubiak added. "That's the way it's been for me."
That included mapping out plans for practice, even if the Vikings didn't run a single play as a team on green grass this offseason.
"You know, it's funny," Kubiak said. "The offensive coaches, they said, 'Coach, script for us like we're practicing.'
"So, I actually scripted every day throughout the offseason, just like I was going on the field, trying to keep my mind sharp and knowing how I want to do things and what I want to get accomplished," Kubiak added. "I don't know that I know the very first play [at the first practice back], but I can say I've had a lot of practice at many plays over the course of the past few months."
View photos of the stadiums where the Vikings will play during the 2020 season.
Outside of football, Kubiak said that he's tried to add a workout routine to his life, although he quipped that it has been a little touch and go.
While details remain to be determined regarding NFL training camps, Kubiak is keeping his focus on how he can get Minnesota's offense ready to go for the 2020 season.
Of course, he'll be helped by the fact that he had to teach more, and be adaptable as ever, at the age of 58.
"I've always thought of it that way. I think that's what coaching's all about – taking each individual guy and getting the most out of him," Kubiak said. "But you're right, I mean, this was so classroom-oriented in how we went about it. We taught separately for about a week and a half, then we taught in a group environment for about a week and a half. I bounced around to various meetings.
"We tried to change it up about every 10 days or seven or eight meetings that we had together, so that we could keep them motivated. We tried to do a lot of interaction amongst players," Kubiak added. "Probably the biggest challenge was having players get to know each other. We've got players that they know each other's names, but they've never met. So, we tried to have some interaction on the computer or talking about their lives, about their families, so that we can make up a little ground from that standpoint. It's been very challenging, but it's been a lot of fun."