EAGAN, Minn. — Mike Klis has been covering sports in Colorado for more than 30-years, and the Denver Broncos for almost 15. Klis went from being the Broncos beat writer for the Denver post to doing the same job for KUSA 9 News in Denver, where he works today.
I met Mike when he was in town last year to cover the Super Bowl and have followed him on social media ever since. While I follow several beat writers and national pundits, my experience is that few are more active, timely and accurate than Klis. And Denver is a football-crazy town.
So when the Vikings made the move this week to add former Broncos head coach and longtime offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak as the Purple’s assistant head coach/offensive advisor, Kubiak’s son Clint to be the team’s quarterbacks coach, and Brian Pariani to coach tight ends (not to mention rumors that former Broncos O-line coach/run game coordinator Rick Dennison could still join them) I reached out to Klis for insight on these extraordinary moves.
Tim: With former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio being named the Broncos new head , how come this is happening here in Minnesota, and not in Denver?
Klis: “I’m not really sure what happened with the Broncos," Klis explained. "Kubiak talked to Fangio, and he wanted to bring back all those guys and the Broncos had let go of Pariani and Dennison and they didn’t want those guys back, so that’s where the breakdown happened here.”
Tim: The timing seems so strange. On January 9 the Vikings announced Kevin Stefanski would be coming back in the role of offensive coordinator. Then five days laterwe find out that the Kubiak army is being brought in. Should Kevin Stefanski be nervous?
Klis: “This will be Gary Kubiak’s offense, make no mistake about it," Klis opined. "He was brought in to work with Kirk Cousins. Cousins had success with Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan in Washington, and they ran this scheme, the west coast scheme, that they ran in Denver with Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator. Kyle Shanahan has since updated it, but they’re coming in to work with Kirk Cousins in a system he’s familiar with and has had success with in the past. Kevin Stefanski may call the plays on Sunday, but I believe this will very much be Gary Kubiak’s offense.”
Tim: Obviously, the Vikings had problems running the football last season and Mike Zimmer has been clear about the fact that has to get better. Are we to assume that Gary Kubiak will install a zone-blocking system?
Klis: “He is. That zone-blocking scheme actually started here with Alex Gibbs, and it’s that read and one-cut for the running back and when it’s working, it’s actually a pretty thing. But the Broncos have only actually run a zone blocking scheme here two years in the last 10, and that’s when Gary Kubiak was here as the head coach.”
Tim: What can you tell us about Clint Kubiak and Brian Pariani?
Klis: “Clint Kubiak actually worked with Kevin Stafanski the year he was with the Vikings. You can call it nepotism or whatever you want, but Clint Kubiak is a good football coach. He’s ready. As for Brian Pariani he did a great job with the tight ends with the Broncos and he’s a really nice guy, he was always good to me. (Rick) Dennison is supposedly joining them too, but I’m not sure what that means for Clancy Barone. He did a great job with the Broncos o-line when he was here, too.”
Tim: Did the Vikings get better with this move?
Klis: “Time will tell, but I think so. Gary Kubiak was brought in because the Vikings had trouble running the football last season. With him (Gary Kubiak), Pariani and Dennison (If he is added), that won’t be a problem. Everyone’s talking about the Sean McVay coaching tree. Actually, Sean McVay came from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree and so did Gary Kubiak, it’s that west coast offense. The question is, has the NFL moved beyond the west coast offense?”
Tim: As you know the Vikings had the option of making an offer to Case Keenum but opted instead to grad Kirk Cousins in free-agency. What are your thoughts on Keenum after you saw him spend a season as the Broncos starting QB?
Klis: “He’s a great competitor, I’ll give him that, but I’m not sure he has the physical makeup to be a starting quarterback in this league. In his defense, he lost both of his starting receivers, he lost not only his two top tight-ends but actually three of them. He was without his starting running back for the last two games when he hurt his wrist, and 60% of the offensive line was changed due to injuries. I think it was a little bit more than what he signed-up for.”
“He’s a great competitor, and if he had a little bit more in his tool belt, I think he could be great," Klis continued, "but that said, I’m not sure he’ll be the Broncos starting quarterback in 2019.”