ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Gary Kubiak walked up to the lectern in the team room at the UCHealth Training Center carrying a battered leather folio in which he carried his notes.
From San Francisco to Denver to Houston to Baltimore and back to Denver, he's carried it with him. After John Elway introduced him Monday morning for what became an emotional press conference, he opened it one final time, so he could glance at the names of all the people he wanted to thank -- players, coaches, staff, even media.
He picked it up during his first coaching job: in 1992, fresh off a nine-season career in the NFL, working as the running backs coach at Texas A&M, his alma mater. Kubiak's first boss was R.C. Slocum, the winningest coach in Aggies history, and that single season in College Station represented the start of a second career in football that was a success beyond his dreams.
Kubiak won four Super Bowls as an assistant or head coach and moved five times carrying around that folio. If it could talk, it could tell you about the notes it carried.
They were notes of game plans that spurred Steve Young to get the "monkey off my back," John Elway to his late-career apex, Terrell Davis to a 2,000-yard season, Andre Johnson to a Hall of Fame-worthy resume, J.J. Watt to superstardom, Von Miller to a Super Bowl MVP award and Peyton Manning to one perfect final act.
The folio carried notes of speeches that inspired one wave of players after another. Each evening before the game in his head-coaching career, Kubiak would address his team. Years later, his words linger.
"In Saturday-night meetings, everybody was on the edge of their seat waiting for him to talk. Everyone in the room has chills under their arms -- I'm talking about coaches and players alike," former Broncos and Texans tight end Joel Dreessen said when Kubiak returned to Denver.
"He gave very inspirational talks. But it's not a whole lot of rah-rah stuff. It's genuine confidence-building talks that he'd give us. Basically we'd all leave those team meetings on Saturday night ready to run through a wall for the guy."
Monday morning, the folio carried the notes for words that inspired one more time.
Along the walls of the team room, his assistant coaches gathered. Those coaches helped carry the burden this season as Kubiak endured physical challenges that led to a hospitalization, forced him to miss one game entirely and eventually helped lead to the difficult decision he shared with General Manager John Elway during the Broncos' trip to Kansas City: the decision to step away.
"I have struggled big-time this year, and these coaches have picked me up," Kubiak said. "Amazing, to get me through it."
He knows only one way to go about his job -- full throttle, with detailed involvement in a multitude of aspects, particularly on offense. That approach took him from his foot-in-the-door gig at A&M to the sport's summit, so it was obviously the right way. But it also came at a price he knows he can no longer pay.
"I've looked at a lot of things, how to do this different and that different, but the bottom line is that's the way I'm wired," he said. "And when I do something, that's the way I'm going to go about it."
No matter what comes next, that mentality will remain -- but the demands will be different.
"I'm getting out of coaching, but I've got a lot to give, and I'm going to find something else to do, and I'm going to wake up with that same passion and do that just like I've coached for the last 20-something years," he said. "But it's time for me to step away from the coaching field."
Still, as Kubiak prepared for what he knew would be his final game as head coach, it seemed the ever-present folio would outlast his coaching career.
"I used to joke with some of these coaches that when this book falls apart, I'm done. I'm out," he said.
"Well, it tore this morning."
Gary Kubiak, joined by his family, John Elway and his coaching staff, addressed the media Monday morning on his decision to step down as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. (Photos by Eric Bakke)
Only a few things in life pre-dated that folio -- specifically, his family, led by his wife, Rhonda. It was her Buick that he drove to that first training camp in Greeley 33-and-a-half years ago, when nothing was guaranteed and he had to fight just to earn the third-team spot behind Elway and Steve DeBerg.
The folio's work is done. He looked down at it once again, then glanced up at his wife, who watched his remarks from four rows deep near the back corner of the team room.
"She kept me in one piece for a long time. She let me go do what I love to do," he said. "I'm coming home -- but that probably scares the hell out of you.
"I'm coming home, and I love you."
And after three more thank-yous, he grabbed the folio, walked up the stairs of the team room, offered a final "Y'all have a good day," as he often said at the end of his press conferences, and walked away.
The folio did its job well -- just like its owner.
Gary Kubiak has made an immense impact on the Denver Broncos throughout his time as a player, assistant coach and head coach. Kubiak stepped away from the team on Monday. (Photos via DBFC and Eric Bakke)