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Gary Kubiak thankful for year with Ravens, but he couldn't resist homecoming

Gary Kubiak says he was committed to staying with the Ravens, but John Elway's call was a "game changer."

Gary Kubiak said he sat down with his wife, Rhonda, shortly after the RavensAFC divisional playoff loss to the New England Patriots, and they decided that he was going to turn down other head-coaching interview requests because he wanted to remain the offensive coordinator of the Ravens.

But he acknowledged today that everything changed when his close friend and former teammate, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway, called Ravens coach John Harbaugh and expressed an interest in talking to Kubiak for his head-coaching vacancy.

“I was very comfortable saying, ‘No, I’m going to continue this path that I’m on and keep going,’ but this is a game changer. It’s as simple as that,” said Kubiak, who had declined to interview for the New York Jets and Chicago Bears’ head-coaching jobs, and said the Broncos’ opening was the only one that would have gotten him to leave Baltimore.

“That’s the same word that I think I used to Coach Harbaugh when we talked after John had called and asked permission to visit with me. This is where I got my start. This, like I’ve said over and over again, is home for me. This means so much for me. … This was a chance of a lifetime.”

Kubiak, 53, was introduced as Denver's new coach during a news conference at the Broncos’ headquarters during which team president Joe Ellis called him a “perfect fit to be our head coach.”

Kubiak, who had spent 20 seasons with the Broncos as either a player or assistant coach, replaces John Fox, now the head coach of the Chicago Bears. Elway acknowledged that Kubiak was the Broncos’ top choice from the day that the organization parted ways with Fox after a disappointing playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

“Our concern was did [Kubiak] want to do this again,” Elway said. “Once we got to sit down and talk to him, there was no question in my mind that he wanted to be the head coach of the Denver Broncos.”

Kubiak started his comments by thanking the Ravens, specifically mentioning Harbaugh, team owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome. The Ravens hired Kubiak as offensive coordinator last January after Jim Caldwell left to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions. At the time, Kubiak was about a month and a half removed from being dismissed as the Houston Texans’ head coach, and he was still recovering from a major health scare.

“That was extremely important to me,” Kubiak said. “It’s been a heck of a year for this guy, and without that organization giving me an opportunity at about this same time last year, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I really want to thank Steve, Ozzie, John, the players, the organization. I was proud to be a part of them and I appreciate the opportunity that they gave me. It was a wonderful experience. I learned a great deal.”

With Kubiak calling the plays, the Ravens set franchise highs in points and yards, quarterback Joe Flacco had arguably the best season of his career, and the team’s running game became formidable again. But in his news conference, Kubiak stressed how much he learned from the Ravens.

“I really can’t explain the value of last year for me as a coach,” he said. “Being around John Harbaugh, being around that organization, being around Ozzie Newsome, and watching them go about their business, how they go about being successful week in and week out. I take all that as I move forward. I know that I’m a lot better coach now than I was when I left.”

Kubiak now will assemble his coaching staff, which will include former Ravens assistants Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator and Brian Pariani as tight ends coach.

Also on Kubiak’s agenda is a sit-down meeting with record-setting quarterback Peyton Manning, who hasn’t decided whether he will return to the Broncos for another season.

“I want to be the best support system that I can be for Peyton. We’ve had some great conversations and I want to have many more,” Kubiak said. “It’s easy to build a playbook for him. He’s been a master at it for many, many years. You’re talking about a Hall of Fame player, a Hall of Fame person. … This is his time, his decision, and I need to be here for him in any way I can. That’s what I have planned.”

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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