Denver's offense should be pretty good next year.
Bold call there, huh? But that's the base we should work from when analyzing Gary Kubiak's impact.
The guy's stepping into a pretty awesome situation, led by an offense that finished each of the past 3 years among the league's top 4 in both scoring and yardage. Of course, we don't yet know whether QB Peyton Manning will return or whether WR Demaryius Thomas and/or TE Julius Thomas will re-sign.
Well, we'll go ahead and assume that at least DT returns. And who would listen to Manning's Nationwide jingles if he weren't playing football? Plus, WR Emmanuel Sanders returns, and RB C.J. Anderson finally emerged as a stud when given the opportunity. And does anyone really think that losing the TE would kill this group?
So we'll get into Kubiak's specific impact on all of those players once we know if and where all will be playing in 2015. For now, let's focus on the record that this veteran NFL coach and former QB brings.
Kubiak Teams Tend to Run Well
Look back at the new coach's offenses in Denver from 1995 to 2005 -- when he served as OC and, for part of that time, QBs coach -- and you'll find 9 of 11 groups ranking among the league's top 9 in rushing attempts and per-carry average. How much of that was Kubiak and how much Mike Shanahan (the HC over that span)? Tough to say.
Look at the 9 Kubiak offenses since then, and you'll find that 5 ranked higher in pass attempts than rushing attempts. But 5 of his units have also ranked higher in rushing average than in rushing attempts, and Kubiak finished 4 of the past 5 years among the league's top 5 in rushing TDs.
It gets a bit easier to produce in the run game when you have Arian Foster emerge as a force, but Baltimore finished last season 11th in rushing attempts, 7th in per-carry average and 5th in rushing TDs. That's pretty impressive for a backfield led by Justin Forsett. And the Ravens jumped at least 7 spots up the rankings in each of those categories compared with their 2013 numbers.
Perhaps most importantly, this year's Ravens brought their run-pass split closer to balanced, throwing 56% of the time (attempts + sacks) vs. 61% in 2013. Sure, game flow and rushing success factor heavily into that. But Kubiak proved at least smart enough to not force too much Joe Flacco.
Look back at his Houston years, and you'll see shifts in focus, too. Early Texans teams leaned pass with a solid Matt Schaub and an inconsistent running game. Then Houston called more frequent run plays once Foster emerged and Schaub devolved.
The Denver Outlook
That'll really be the key in his new digs. Only a stubborn, rigid coach (Mike Martz?) would swoop into a situation and try to fit everyone into his way of doing things. That might well work at times (Bill Parcells?), but everyone can benefit from being adaptable.
Some have expressed concern that Kubiak's offensive style wouldn't fit Peyton Manning that well. Here's what the coach had to say at his introductory press conference: "Well, it's easy to build a playbook for him. I mean, he's been the master at it for many, many years, and you're talking about a Hall of Fame player, Hall of Fame person."
Exactly. Build a playbook for him. Does anyone really think that Kubiak would come in and say, "I know what you've done in the past, Pey, but this is what we're gonna do now"? Calling him "Pey" seems a little disrespectful on its own.
Of course, we need to find out whether Manning's coming back before digging any further into this situation. And there are the aforementioned free agents to sort out -- including 2 starters on the O-line -- the development of Cody Latimer to watch and even backfield roles to deal with.
We'll talk and write plenty more about the Broncos and their fantasy football outlooks in the coming months. But the 2015 version at least seems to have a smart offensive coach at the top -- one with a particularly positive run-game record.