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Sacco Sez: Elway and Kubiak, the Broncos' quarterback connection

Posted Feb 1, 2016

The beginning of a history-making quarterback duo that has formed a wonderful bond as head coach and general manager.

Denver Broncos fans are emotionally tied to the team at a continuous fever pitch, and I would argue that there has never been a greater familial connection at the highest levels of the team than exists right now.

When Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway hired Gary Kubiak as head coach, it just seemed like a perfect fit, but not everyone knows how far back and deep it all goes.

It is the ultimate team game, but so much of football is all about the quarterback, and the Broncos come into Super Bowl 50 with a number of firsts.

This is the first time a general manager and head coach of one team who both were NFL quarterbacks are going to the game with the same team on which they both played, at the same time.

They were drafted in 1983, but only Kubiak was selected by the Broncos, in the eighth round, as opposed to Elway being the first pick in the entire draft.

They were roommates on the road for as long as the Broncos had roommates, making another first: roommates as players, GM and head coach in the Super Bowl.

Kubiak recently called Denver his "football home" and noted that his good friend "John Elway gave me a chance to come back to my home" as head coach.

This is Elway's seventh Super Bowl, which includes five as a player and two as Denver's general manager. It is Kubiak's seventh as well, including three as a player with Denver, one as the 49ers' quarterbacks coach, and then the back-to-back Super Bowl victories as the Broncos' offensive coordinator.

Elway said last year that he wanted his team to have a "kicking and screaming" attitude in the postseason, and the Broncos certainly have had that under Kubiak, who has said, "I never dreamed I was going to play in the NFL. When I came to the NFL, I wanted to coach."

Never be fooled by the quiet charm and gentlemanly manner that Gary Kubiak always displays. He is as tough, commanding and hard-nosed as they come, with the same competitive juice flowing through him that also runs through Elway and Manning.

It is indeed all about the quarterback; this is Peyton Manning's fourth Super Bowl, marking the first time ever that a general manager, head coach and starting quarterback have 18 combined appearances in the NFL's championship game.

The Elway-Kubiak bond was forged at the very beginning.

Most fans are not aware of the fact that the first passes thrown by either quarterback in an official Broncos workout was not in Denver, but at the Air Force Academy's indoor facility in May of 1983 due to a huge snowstorm that hit the Broncos' north Denver practice fields and forced us all to bus south for the first practice of their first mini camp.

Fast-forwarding to this week, the connections continue to the opposing team.

John Elway, Gary Kubiak and Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera all played in the same game at Chicago in 1984, the second game of the campaign and one year before the Bears went on to win the Super Bowl in 1985.

Kubiak started that game in place of an injured Elway, but Kubiak was hit hard by the Chicago defense and forced to leave the game. Elway then gave it a go but could not stay in and third stringer Scott Stankavage mopped up in the 27-0 loss.

However, Kubiak rebounded nicely from that predictably tough day in Chicago.

The 1984 season was the year in which the NFL began to name AFC and NFC Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week awards, a tradition that continues today.

Most would bet that the first Denver quarterback to be named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week was Elway, but they would lose that bet.

It was Kubiak.

When the Broncos played the Raiders at Los Angeles in Week 9, Elway was unable to go due to an injury and it was announced midweek that Kubiak would play.

The Raiders and 91,020 fans were licking their chops at the Los Angeles Coliseum but Kubiak became the answer to a trivia question as Denver's first-ever player of the week with a 21-for-34 passing performance for 206 yards and one touchdown. The Broncos won in overtime, 22-19.

I remember taking the Denver writers out to dinner the night before and telling them the Broncos would do just fine with Kubiak and beat the Raiders again, as we had won a bitter struggle behind Elway in Denver earlier, 16-13.

They laughed at me, but I knew I was right.

The Broncos did great with Elway and Kubiak then, and they are just fine with the reunion version now.

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