Kubiak knew what it took to win.
He served as the Broncos' offensive coordinator during the franchise's back-to-back Super Bowl wins, and he led the Houston Texans to a pair of playoff berths — the first in franchise history — during an eight-year stint with the organization.
So, as the Broncos prepared for an AFC Championship matchup with Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots, there was little doubt in Kubiak's mind about who he would have speak to his team the night before the game:
"I think the greatest compliment a coach can give to players is to turn the team over to certain players in situations from a mental standpoint or motivational standpoint," Kubiak said. "That team was just so blessed with those two leaders and who were they were as people. And obviously they were great players, that all speaks for itself. They were so well respected. I could sit there and talk all day, but for one of those guys to get up there and echo something the coach says or talk about how important something is to them, that's extremely powerful."
Peyton Manning and Ware had plenty to share with their teammates. Both players were nearing the end of their careers — Manning would play just two more games — and were looking to win a Lombardi Trophy with a new organization.
And while Manning won Super Bowl XLI with the Colts, Ware had never tasted that sort of success. The four-time first-team All-Pro, who posted 20 sacks in 2008 for the Cowboys, won just one playoff game during his tenure with the Cowboys and had never played in a conference championship game. In an already Hall of Fame-worthy career, Ware lacked the team success and the accompanying jewelry to go with stellar individual statistics.
In his message to his teammates before the matchup with one of the Broncos' biggest rivals, Ware owned that history and expressed his desire to at last reach his ultimate goal.
"You've got a guy like DeMarcus up there who had never been to a Super Bowl," Kubiak said. "This was about his career and what it meant to him. Let's face it, he and Peyton were both at the end of their career, and it might have been their last opportunity. So it was a powerful message to their teammates to say, 'I've got to get this done, my ass is getting older.' It was pretty cool from that standpoint."
Ware, though, was not done.
After Kubiak asked him to speak to the team, Ware got his hands on the Broncos' Super Bowl XXXII Lombardi Trophy. He snuck the trophy into the meeting, unbeknownst to his teammates or coaches.
"I had no idea," Kubiak said with a laugh. "I had told them, 'I'm going to turn them loose to you guys when I get through.' You just trust guys like that. You know they're going to do the right thing."
"All of a sudden, I see this bag come up there and I see him reach in there and get it. I'm like, 'OK.' It makes you feel pretty good as a coach, watching your guys' attention looking at him."
Ware set the trophy on a table, and he recalled the room falling silent.
"I saw in all the guys' eyes how they felt, what they felt, because I felt the same way," Ware said in 2016. "From that point, I just knew how important it was to those guys."
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who would come up with a critical fourth-down stop the next afternoon, still recalls how he felt as he sat next to defensive end Derek Wolfe and running back C.J. Anderson and listened to Ware.
"I remember getting excited," Harris said this week, "and Wolfe always carried the intensity — he was ready to go that night. C.J. was so animated, I think he [stood] up."
After Ware's speech, there was little question among the Broncos what would happen next.
"We could kind of feel it in the air that we were going to get out there and win," Harris said. "We just had to get to the game, man. We were ready to go all week."
Safety T.J. Ward felt the same level of confidence, and he called it a "very special night" to hear Ware share what it would mean for him to win a title.
It was also exactly what the Broncos needed.
"There was no doubt in that room," Ward said this week. "There was no doubt among anyone that we were going to win that game. … The emotions were high, but it was a calm, serious, just readiness. We were ready to go.
"… We knew we had their number. They couldn't beat us. They couldn't match up with what we had."