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Time on Tractor Leads Gary Kubiak to Accepting Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gig

EAGAN, Minn. — Gary Kubiak didn't need long to decide whether or not he wanted to be the Vikings offensive coordinator in 2020.

Just a few days on his tractor to ponder things while mowing his grass in Texas.

Kubiak, whom the Vikings announced as their offensive coordinator in late January, met with the local media Tuesday morning at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. He has taken over a role that was held in 2019 by Kevin Stefanski.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer approached Kubiak about the possibility shortly after Minnesota's season came to an end in the Divisional round against San Francisco and Stefanski departed to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Kubiak asked for a little time before providing his answer.

"You're all tired after the season. The NFL season is a grind," Kubiak said. "It all went down really quickly when we got back from San Francisco, [Zimmer] gave us some time off and I said, 'Coach, do you mind if I go back home and mow some grass for a couple days and think about it?' I told him two days, and [we talked] in a day-and-a-half … I was just really excited to do it."

Kubiak noted he was drawn in by the chance to continue working with people he has decades of experience with — offensive line coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani — plus his son, quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak, and a group of players he became close with in 2019.

And unlike the 2019 offseason, Kubiak and his staff will be able to hit the ground running this spring.

"I wasn't hesitant at all. The circumstances were interesting how they took place," Kubiak said. "First off, for me to be here and be a big part of the group I've coached with for a long, long time. And then I get here and we put a system in place and go to work and we do a job throughout the course of a year.

"Then one thing changed — one guy got a head-coaching job — so for me, it's very familiar. I didn't have to go back to work a month ago and start over with a new group of coaches," Kubiak added. "We're way ahead and can go right back to work and try to make up some more ground. All those things were sort of fuel to the fire, so to speak, and made it easy for me to say, 'I appreciate the opportunity and I'm looking forward to it.' "

The 58-year-old Kubiak is returning for his second season with the Vikings after spending the first as the team's assistant head coach/offensive advisor.

He was last an offensive coordinator in 2014 with Baltimore. He was also in that role with Denver from 1995-2005 when he helped the Broncos win back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

Kubiak has nearly 10 years of head coaching experience in the NFL and has an 82-75 overall regular-season record.

Kubiak also has four Super Bowl rings to his name. He was the Broncos head coach in a 24-10 win in Super Bowl 50 against Carolina, won the two titles as Denver's offensive coordinator in the late 1990s and also captured a ring as the 49ers quarterbacks coach in 1994.

View photos of the Vikings 2020 coaching staff.

Zimmer said he was "definitely relieved" when the two chatted and Kubiak agreed to accept the role.

"That was great because I thought he did an outstanding job last year, and I anticipate it will be even better," Zimmer said.

"It was really the perfect fit for the entire offense. The terminology will be very, very similar. Players won't have to learn all kinds of different things," Zimmer later added. "I think the quarterback [Kirk Cousins] played as well as he's played in his career. I feel like those things will continue to improve … the more comfortable you are in what you're doing, the faster you play and the better you play, usually."

Kubiak also spoke highly of a group of offensive players including Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph and the offensive line.

"Had a great time last year. Obviously with the role I was asked to take on last year with Kevin and the offense, it was something I really enjoyed," Kubiak said. "We had a great group [of players], and with Kevin leaving, the group hasn't changed. Very fortunate that Zim' and [Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman] asked me to do this."

Kubiak's influence was certainly felt in the Vikings rushing attack this past season.

The Vikings showed a vast improvement in the running game in 2019 as Cook led the way with 1,135 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns en route to his first Pro Bowl nod.

Minnesota ranked sixth with 133.3 rushing yards per game and 19 rushing touchdowns in 2019. The Vikings ranked 30th in 2018 with 93.3 rushing yards per game, and were tied for 29th with just nine rushing scores.

View the best photos from Vikings team photographers of the offensive line during the 2019 season.

Kubiak said Tuesday that he wants the Vikings offense to be as balanced as possible, but did reiterate that Minnesota will have a strong vow for the running game.

"The first thing I would say is commitment," Kubiak said. "You've got to be committed to running the football and being physical, and that starts with Zim' … 'Hey, this is what I want to be and what I want you guys to work on.'

"I think we made a commitment in the offseason and stuck with it through training camp. It's not always easy and it doesn't go perfect during the season, but we stayed with it. Even when we lost Dalvin, we tried to stay with it and struggled for a couple weeks," Kubiak added. "I just think being committed to doing it, and it's what we think is best for our team, so we'll stay committed to it and find ways to get better and make some big plays off it."

While Kubiak will be working with the same collection of players, he did say he looks forward to challenging himself each day in the offseason. Part of that will come during spring practices when he's tasked with calling plays.

"I look forward to it, it's something I've done for 26, 27 years," said Kubiak, who worked games in 2019 from the coaches' box. "I've done it, but I also think it's something you have to prepare to do.

"Zim' has got to put me back to work and put me in situations in practice where I'm getting going again. But I feel comfortable because of the group I'm around," Kubiak added. "Being with Rick [Dennison] all these years, having these young coaches on our staff, very bright minds in that meeting room … I think all of us together have to find a way to put our best foot forward."

Vikings players are slated to return to the team facility April 20 for voluntary offseason workouts.

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