Gary Kubiak and Rick Spielman spoke to reporters Tuesday for the first time this regular season. Here’s what they had to say on the state of the team 11 games into the season. Responses have been condensed for brevity and clarity.
On Kirk Cousins’ progress and development
Kubiak: “We’ve got a lot of eyes on Kirk. You’ve got Klint [Kubiak] in there, you’ve got me in there, you’ve got Kevin [Stefanski] who’s coached quarterbacks and Rick Dennison who’s coached quarterbacks. I think as coaches you’re always trying to find out what your guy does best, how you help him play at his best. Making quick decisions, getting rid of the football in this league, you can’t talk about that enough because it’s a game where if you hold the ball, bad things happen so we just try to put a big point of emphasis on that and the way that Kevin has called games I think has been the most important thing of how Kirk has been able to translate that to Sundays.
“I just think that he continues to understand himself better, his relationship with Kevin as we prepare to get ready for a game and we sit in those meetings and talk about how Kevin’s going to call a game and Kirk gives him feedback and the job that Klint’s doing with him on a day-to-day basis. I just think all those things are coming together and he’s feeling more and more comfortable each week that he goes out there.
“I just think he stayed on the grind. Kirk and I have had some good conversations. I know early in the season I made a comment to him after one of the disappointing games, I said, ‘You know what, Kirk, we just have to keep going back to the situations and we’ll get over the hump, we’ll improve those situations.’ I think it’s his commitment to do that, his confidence in what we’re doing, his confidence in his team to help him get over the hump in some of those situations, I think that’s been really important.”
Spielman: “I think it’s just the one thing that we wanted to identify this offseason is, just like with any other player, what are his strengths and how do we make sure that we’re putting him in the best situations to have success? When you go back and you go through all the analytics, there’s things there that can tell you, ‘OK, this guy really excels in these specific areas.’
“So, I think what Kevin Stefanski has done, and Gary Kubiak and some of the new coaches that we’ve brought on the offense, they’re really done an outstanding job not only identifying where Kirk excels but where Dalvin Cook excels, where the receivers, you’re seeing the tight ends excel, so they’ve done a phenomenal job of developing this system and even the offensive line.”
ON DALVIN COOK’S STELLAR 2019 SEASON
Kubiak: “The one characteristic I would say when I look at [Terrell Davis] and some of these other backs I’ve had with Arian Foster and [Clinton] Portis. They have a toughness edge to them. You know, Dalvin is not the biggest guy in the world but when he runs he runs angry. And in pass protection he’ll stick his face in there and do that type of thing. Those guys have an edge and Dalvin has it. The thing that Dalvin has done a great job for us is he’s a three-down player. He’s on the field protecting Kirk and catching the football. We’re able to get him other ways to help us win rather than just handing it to him.”
Spielman: “Just his physical skill set, as far as his vision, his patience to set up the blocks, he’s going to keep working laterally and the burst and balance he has through the hole. And he’s not a 6-2, 230, 220-pound back, but he has tremendous strength and balance. The thing that makes him unique, that makes the great running backs unique is the ability to create on their own. I don’t know what the stat is, but I can imagine he’s one of the top backs in the league as far as getting yards after contact, or making people miss, especially when he gets in space. He just has a unique trait like that that I don’t think you can coach. I think it’s something you’re born with.
“But you’ve just seen it since he’s been in the building. When he came here his rookie year before the injury, you see it at practice every day, you see how mature [he was] and how hard he fought to come back from that injury. Then he had the hamstring last year, but you saw what he was doing before.”
ON GARY KUBIAK’S IMPACT
Kubiak: “What I try to do is help Kevin with situational football and what’s going on. I listen to him call the game, I may make a suggestion, ‘Hey, Kevin come back with this,’ and ‘You’re getting played this way so think about this,’ so it’s just a great conversation back and forth. I can’t tell you how many times I might say something and Kevin will say, ‘Say that again.’ So we’re just constantly conversing on what’s happening and a lot of eyes on what’s going on on the football field. He’s done a great job pulling the trigger, he’s really an excellent play caller, and I think he’s getting better each and every week because his feel for our players and what our team does best continues to grow.”
Spielman: “I think the communication is the biggest thing, and I think the one thing that’s unique, especially watching all the coaches interact, everybody wants the same objective. We just want to win, and we want to try to win a championship here. There’s no one that’s putting themself in front of what the ultimate goal and objective is. I think that’s unique, not only from the coaching staff, but from our whole culture that we’ve been able to create and establish.
“I think just that experience, and the one thing I know Coach Zim, that he missed last year I think a lot, with the passing of Tony Sparano, was that confidant that’s been there, that’s sat in the same position that Zim is, to go there and bounce different things off of, to learn and ask him about, ‘Have you ever experienced this before, that experience?’ I know he asks him questions all the time.”
ON KEVIN STEFANSKI’S FUTURE
Kubiak: “I think Kevin’s got a brilliant future. The key to getting in position to do those types of things is calling games, calling defenses, calling offenses, making decisions, handling a meeting room of a bunch of players, being able to get the most out of not only players, but coaches as well. Kevin’s been exceptional and it’s a great opportunity for him this year to do it on a full-time basis. He’s doing a great job with it.
“I’m sure they don’t want to lose him around here, but Kevin’s got a bright future. He’s very young, very smart. There’s a couple qualities, I was thinking about this the other day – being able to be demanding but being very composed. Those are two things that I look for in young coaches. I know for me as a head coach when I was looking for guys to come work for me and those are two things that Kevin does extremely well.”
Spielman: “I think the qualities of a head coach, what you look for is, he’s done so many different things, so many different jobs as far as coaching different positions, learned from a lot of great coordinators he’s worked with underneath here. I’m sure, if we continue to have success, that he will get an opportunity someday down the road, whether it’s next year or down the road at some time. … But I know Cleveland was very interested in him last year, and he was in serious consideration for that job. I know he’s getting recognized around the league for what type of coach he is.
“Kevin has no ego whatsoever. He just wants to continue to learn and grow. I think that type of attitude, where I’m not a young up-and-comer, that I have all the answers, where he’s still looking to learn, he’s still looking to grow. When you have that type of attitude, and are eager to listen and bounce different ideas off, from a Gary Kubiak, from a Rico Dennison and some of these guys that have been around a while, that have had a lot of success, that just tells you that you’re probably going to learn from that as well, and eventually getting an opportunity down the road someday.”
ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE AND KUBIAK’S ZONE SCHEME
Kubiak: “I think we all have a background and we come from something. My label is with the zone and the movement and those types of things. I think you always have to grow as coaches, and I think that’s why we’re having some success here. There’s a lot of things that Kevin has done in the past, Rick’s done in the past and we come in here with some great ideas. I think we’re expanding on what we do but we know what our base is and where we started.”
Spielman: “I think a lot of it has to do with the athletic ability, the ability to move laterally. The ability to adjust and sustain in space because they’re going to have to block linebackers and defensive backs. The thing that we haven’t been very good at in the past – and give credit to Dalvin Cook because he’s been magic with the ball in his hands – is the screen game. That’s been a big part of the offense as well. When you look at our games or watch the tape, look at how these guys are running downfield. A lot of these guys were at other positions before they became offensive linemen. Brian O’Neill was a tight end. I think Bradbury started out as a defensive lineman. So these guys have played other positions and converted to offensive lineman. That kind of gives you an idea of what their athletic skillset is.”