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Chicago Bears offensive coordinator search: Can Klint Kubiak make a name for himself as the next up-and-coming play caller?

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
January 17, 2024

The Chicago Bears requested to interview 49ers passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak for the team’s offensive coordinator job on Jan. 11, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The report came just one day after the Bears requested to interview Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron for their vacant play caller position.

You can read more about Waldron and what he could add to the Bears if he was hired here.

Kubiak comes from a football family. His dad, Gary Kubiak, coached for 25 years in the NFL, worked with Mike Shanahan and won Super Bowl 50 as head coach of the Broncos. His younger brother, Klay, is also on the 49ers staff as an assistant quarterbacks coach.

Before Kubiak joined Kyle Shanahan for the 2023 season, he was with the Denver Broncos for a season as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2022. Kubiak did get an opportunity to call plays from Weeks 11 through 17 because of the team’s offensive struggles early on in the season.

In that span, the Broncos scored 28 points against the Chiefs in a losing effort, which was the most points the team had put up through the first 17 games. The Broncos also broke a five-game losing streak with their 24-15 victory over the Cardinals. However, the offense averaged just 17.9 points per game with Kubiak calling plays.

Kubiak also had a stop in Minnesota from 2019 through 2021. In his first two seasons with the Vikings, he was the quarterbacks coach. Kirk Cousins had one of his best seasons in 2020, finishing with 4,265 yards, a career-high 35 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Kubiak then called plays for the Vikings during the 2021 season. Cousins threw for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Vikings finished 12th in total yards (362.8), 11th in passing (249.3), 17th in rushing (113.5) and 14th in points per game (25).

One of Kubiak’s best games that year came in the Week 11 matchup against the Green Bay Packers at U.S Bank Stadium. The Vikings ended up defeating the Packers, 34-31, and did so by highlighting the team’s best offensive threats.

Cousins threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns on 24 of 35 attempts. Justin Jefferson caught eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Adam Thielen added another 82 yards and a receiving touchdown. And Dalvin Cook ran for 86 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts.

The Vikings accumulated 408 yards of total offense and went 9 of 13 on third down. Minnesota accomplished all this despite facing a Green Bay defense that at the time was No. 3 in the league in points allowed, pass defense, total defense, yards per play and 20+ yard plays given up.

Here are three plays from that game that showcase how Kubiak maximized the strengths of his offensive players.

1. Target Justin Jefferson on third down

On the Vikings’ first offensive drive of the game, they faced an early third-and-6 from their own 29-yard line. Cousins was able to hit Jefferson for an explosive 43-yard gain to keep the Vikings’ offense on the field.

Jefferson was lined up on the line of scrimmage to Cousins’ left. K.J. Osborn and Thielen are lined up on the opposite side. Osborn played an important part in this play, which will be explained after the still picture.

The Packers rotate from their two-high safety look to single high and are in man coverage. It looked like the corner across from Jefferson wanted to pass off the receiver to his teammate, but nobody picked him up and the Vikings capitalized on the Packers’ mistake.

Osborn ran a deep over route in the middle of the field while Jefferson’s deep in route was more shallow. The Packers’ safety reacted to Osborn because of his vertical depth, which left wide open grass for Cousins to hit Jefferson.

Kubiak and the rest of the Vikings coaching staff did a good job of implementing the precise details in this route concept to give the Vikings an opportunity to create a big play on their opening drive.

2. Make the defense think

On the Vikings’ first possession in the second quarter, Kubiak had Cousins in an empty backfield on this third-and-goal play from the 10-yard line. Cousins connected with Thielen for a touchdown to add to their lead.

Jefferson ran a skinny post and drew two Packers players. Having Jefferson be on the line of scrimmage and be the first player to attack the defense made him more of a decoy on this play. Thielen then just needed to beat one man on his option route to the sideline.

Kubiak didn’t overthink this play in the red zone. He utilized his two best playmakers in Jefferson and Thielen in a condensed wide receiver split, which put extra pressure on the defenders to that side of the field.

3. Creativity

The Vikings capped a 14-play, 75-yard drive in the third quarter with Jefferson’s first touchdown of the game.

Jefferson is lined up to Cousins’ right in the backfield — something that defenses most likely don’t prepare for all too often. Also, Thielen and Jefferson are lined up to the right side of the quarterback, which worked well for the touchdown that Thielen scored in the second quarter.

Again, Kubiak put his two best receivers to one side of the field to stress the defense. Thielen ran a post while Jefferson ran an angle route out of the backfield. Jefferson had so much space to work with that the Packers’ safety, Henry Black, froze as Jefferson was breaking inside. By the time Black reacted, it was too late and Jefferson scored.

This play displayed creativity with Jefferson being in the backfield and the routes attacked the defense at different depths. Against the Packers, the Vikings needed touchdowns and finished 3 of 4 in the red zone.

Analysis and how Kubiak could impact the Bears

Throughout the entire game, Kubiak consistently moved Jefferson around. He played outside, in the slot, in the backfield and in stacked splits. And on crucial downs, Thielen lined up on the same side of the formation as Jefferson — which gave Cousins options.

Kubiak called an effective game against one of the top defenses at this point in the season. Usually whenever a team plays the Packers, the play caller advantage goes to Matt LaFleur. That wasn’t the case in this matchup.

Once the Bears add more weapons on offense in free agency or through the draft, Kubiak would be able to devise two-man concepts that involve DJ Moore and whoever ends up being the Bears’ new No. 2 receiver.

The details of the route depths, spacing and tempo would be highlighted, so plays could be executed like they were intended.

This offense has a reputation for attacking the middle of the field, putting the skill position players in a position to get yards after the catch and for having athletic offensive linemen that can move laterally to run the ball outside.

If Kubiak gets the job in Chicago as the offensive coordinator and Justin Fields is his quarterback, there would be a lot of potential for the connection between Fields and Moore to take a next step. Kubiak showed a good understanding of how to put his top playmakers in advantageous situations.

Now, this system is also known for getting the ball out quick and for throwing with anticipation. Those have been some of Fields’ struggles throughout his first three seasons, but could Kubiak develop and call games more effectively than Luke Getsy that would allow Fields to play more on time? That’s the million dollar question.

If the Bears go the Caleb Williams route, this would be an ideal system for the rookie quarterback. Williams has a quick release and can throw with anticipation. He does at times look for the big play and would need to operate more in structure, but that should come with time and coaching.

The Bears do, however, need to add more targets so that whoever is playing quarterback has options other than Moore.

Bottom line, the Bears need to finally get someone that will start giving them a competitive advantage at the offensive coordinator position. If the organization believes Kubiak is that guy, then he will be the hire.

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