While Gary Kubiak never was a member of Dan Reeves' coaching staff, he could easily be considered a member of Reeves' coaching tree.
For nearly a decade, Kubiak was a reserve quarterback behind John Elway and worked closely with Reeves, who was the head coach for the entirety of Kubiak's playing career. Kubiak learned a lot from Reeves during that run, and as Kubiak's playing career wound down, Reeves recognized his potential as a coach. While they never worked together in the coaching profession, Reeves still made a profound impact upon the future Super Bowl 50 winning coach by sparking his future in the profession.
After Reeves' passing on Saturday, Kubiak spoke with us about his time with Reeves, how the two stayed in contact over the years and the memories he'll cherish from their time together.
What kind of impact did Dan have on you?
"[I had] just tremendous respect for him. Obviously, I mean, he drafted me. I played for him for nine years. Really, in a lot of ways, he kind of raised me as a player and then I got into coaching and I was sitting there working with him. I was a backup behind John, so I was with Dan in a big, big part of my career. Wonderful man. I stayed in touch with him through the years. [He] came down and spent a couple weeks with us during our Super Bowl run in 2015. Actually, he came to spend about a week with us. His son-in-law, Joe DeCamillis, worked for me there at the time. It's just really tough. Really good person, tremendous NFL career as a player, coach, assistant coach, head coach — you name it. And a good man."
How did he influence your decision to become a coach?
"He had a lot to do with it. Actually, when I retired my last year [as a player], he tried to talk me into staying there and coaching with him and starting my coaching career with him. I just felt like I needed to go, kind of, earn my keep so to speak. I went back to college football and coached for a couple of years before I came back to the NFL. But he gave me my first opportunity. He tried to hire me when he was with the Giants. I went down and spent some time with him. But I never actually coached with him. It's funny how things work. But he's been a very good friend throughout my life. And matter of fact, I was just in Atlanta two weeks ago for Demaryius' [celebration of life ceremony] and sat with Chan Gailey, and we talked about him for a long, long time. Just very unfortunate, and we hate to see it."
What do you recall about that time in 2015 when he came out to Denver to be around the team?
"Joe D. had told me he was going to come to town. And so I know he sat with my wife up in her box during that game. … It was Green Bay, Rhonda tells me, so I think it was when they inducted Mr. Bowlen [into the Ring of Fame]. … That's what he had come to town for. He sat with my wife and spent some time at practice. I let him sit in the meetings with the players, I introduced him to our players. All the guys, they knew who he was. He sat in the back of the room and watched us do our deal. It was pretty cool. He came out to practice, so it's something you cherish when you look back on it. It was really cool."
What kind of standard did Dan set for the franchise?
"When I look at it, he was with the Cowboys, [and] the Cowboys were kind of the standard way back in those days. He got an opportunity from there. I think he was the youngest coach in the NFL at the time the Broncos hired him, and he brought the Dallas way to Denver. That happens in a lot of things in football, right? I mean, people [say], 'Hey, we want the Patriot way,' or, 'Hey, we want to do it that way.' So Dan kind of came to Denver and brought the Dallas way [and] the Dallas offense that worked for [Hall of Famer Tom] Landry all them years. So it was really, when you look back on it, really special to be a part of it and learn from him and spend that quality years with him."
When I look back through video from his time here or newspaper clippings, I see a lot about Dan talking about the importance of character. How much did that come into play with his approach?
"Absolutely. The biggest thing is back in those days when you had teams, they stayed together for a long time. Football [didn't have] the free agency the way it is now where teams change so drastically from year to year. My nine years in Denver, our team kind of stayed intact. John was our guy, and heck, I think our offensive line stayed intact for a long, long time. Players didn't move around as much. A lot of guys played for him for a long time. You know what I mean? If you go back and look at it — and I can't speak for other guys — but that's just the way football was back then. But boy, he stood the test of time. Then he went to New York and he was successful, and he went to Atlanta and was successful. Just a tremendous career."
What are the moments you cherish most now when you think about them? Is it the championships or maybe just all the time being in meeting rooms together?
"I'll give you a great example. I remember when we were playing for him, the night before games. Back in those days, we didn't stay in hotels and stuff. We got to stay at home. But he would have me and John come to his house and we'd have meetings. Dan was a play-caller and we'd go to his house and we'd go over the game plan and go over the plays and go over everything. I can remember 'em, hell, like it was yesterday, there in Cherry Creek going to Dan's house. Just stuff like that was really cool. The game was a little bit different back then, but he was very personable. … The job he did and all the success that the Bronco organization has had, Dan was obviously a big start to that."
Is there anything else you'd like to add as you reflect on him?
"I love him. He's a wonderful man. And when you really sit down, like I did this morning, and think about what he did in the National Football League as a player and as a coach and how long he was part of it, you look at that career, that's pretty special. … Boy, he's lived a great life, very successful. A good man and a good family man, and we'll all miss him."