Saints Officially Hire 49ers Passing Game Coordinator Klint Kubiak as OC
The NFL season coming to the end is always a somber moment for the entire sports world, but there should be no blues for the New Orleans Saints today after making their hiring of Klint Kubiak official. Excitement and intrigue were definitely a priority for the Saints’ brass in hiring a new offensive coordinator for the first time since 2009, and that’s exactly what they have accomplished after hiring 36-year-old Klint Kubiak away from the super bowl runner-up San Francisco 49ers.
Despite not even being 40 yet (he turns 37 on February 17th) Kubiak has been coaching in the NFL since 2013, with different stops in Denver and Minnesota before spending this past year with the 49ers. He has held titles of offensive quality control coach, quarterbacks coach, passing game coordinator and even has been an offensive coordinator/play caller under Mike Zimmer in Minnesota for the 2021 season.
Being a young coach with play calling experience from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree already, on the surface, checks many different boxes that I listed in my piece following the Pete Carmichael outing nearly a month ago. I did not have Kubiak listed as one of my primary candidates, but there is no reason to believe that this is not the exact correct target the Saints should have coveted throughout this search. And this seems to have been the case all along.
A complete systematic overhaul on the offensive side of the ball is precisely the direction the team needed to go with this hire. The pressure and scrutiny Dennis Allen has been under these past two years in addressing issues stemmed by offensive inadequacy and dysfunction has only increased. Finding someone outside the organization that is well versed in the direction successful NFL offensive schemes are going was paramount, and Kubiak arguably is the most desirable candidate that was available in the entire pool throughout the league in achieving this.
Along with the play calling experience, Kubiak’s lineage makes him very intriguing as well. His father, Gary Kubiak, was offensive coordinator under Mike Shanahan (Kyle’s father) with the Denver Broncos in the late 90s where they won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 98′. Gary also won one as head coach of the Broncos in 2015, and his son joined him as an offensive assistant in 2016. His brother, Klay, is currently an assistant quarterback’s coach for the 49ers as well.
It may just seem like a bunch of names and years, but this information is important because it shows the extremely deep ties that the Kubiak’s and Shanahan’s share together – and there is no greater name to be tied to in the modern era of coaching than possibly this generation’s greatest offensive mind, Kyle Shanahan.
Kubiak also has a year as a play caller with the 2021 Vikings, where results were much closer to average than fantastic – but that experience should be valued more than closely analyzed because he surely brings more to the table as a coordinator after a year with Shanahan. However, it is still interesting to look at the results.
2021 Minnesota Vikings offense:
- 14th in points per game (25.0)
- 12th in total offense (362.8 ypg)
- 11th passing (249.3 ypg)
- 17th rushing (113.5 ypg)
Those are just the base level stats that don’t tell the whole story, but the results are unspectacular nonetheless. Quarterback Kirk Cousins did boast possibly his best year statistically under Kubiak with 4221 yards and 33 TDs to only 7 INTs with a completion percentage of 66.3% in 16 starts ending in a trip to the pro bowl. It was also second year receiver and LSU Tiger legend, Justin Jefferson’s breakout, year (108 rec, 1616 yards, 10 TDs) and an injury riddled but still elite year from running back, Dalvin Cook (264 car, 1159 yards, 6 TDs in 13 games). It was an 8-9 season from Minnesota, and a year that ended in head coach Mike Zimmer being fired, which, in turn, led to Kubiak’s departure as well.
That is the largest body of work season from the Saints’ new offensive play caller, but – like I said – it is the experience that is valuable more than the results. His role this past season in nearly bringing an MVP out of a second year quarterback that was the last pick of the draft should not be glossed over either. Brock Purdy was top five in every relevant quarterback stat this past season, and Kubiak was one the main architects for the 49ers’ pass-game playbook.
Over the past week, there has always been major turnover on the Saints offensive staff in waiting for Kubiak’s arrival. The franchise parted ways with QB coach Ronald Curry (after offering him a shift back to WR coach, like I said would be the only way he would be retained) and OL coach Doug Marrone, meaning the only returning position coaches on the staff will be tight ends coach Clancy Barone. This is not coincidence as Barone has spent time with Kubiak at Denver in 2016, along with working for his father for multiple years prior with the Broncos before his arrival.
Along with Barone, the team has already filled the quarterback and offensive line coach positions with guys who have past experience with the Kubiak family as well:
Andrew Janocko was Kubiak’s quarterback coach when he was OC for the Vikings and Benton was Gary Kubiak’s OL coach when he was the head coach for the Houston Texans back from 2006-2013. Janocko has spent the past two years as QB coach for the Chicago Bears, while Benton’s last stop was with the New York Jets as OL coach/run game coordinator in 21′ and 22′ after working as OL coach under Shannahan in San Francisco from 2017-20.
The main point to all of these moves is to inject an entirely new offensive culture/system/perspective into this franchise. No matter how good the team may believe Curry or Marrone are as coaches, this should be viewed as a positive move because this turnover was the necessary point of action in order to move forward offensively.
Watching the Super Bowl was a direct reflection of how far behind the Saints have been from the league’s brightest the past couple of years. You don’t see anything close to as nuanced as “orbit” or “exit” motion or a damn double pass in the post-Payton Saints offense. It’s always a breath of fresh air to watch teams like the Chiefs and 49ers run their offenses, and it is obviously no coincidence that they both were, yet again, playing in the final game of the year.
This is hopefully some of the stuff we can expect from the Saints in 2024. The next task at hand is filling out/upgrading the offensive personnel with guys who fit this scheme in both the draft and free agency.
As per usual this time of year, the Saints’ salary cap situation has already been well documented across the NFL media. At over $83 million in the red, the Saints are again dead last in cap space as of day one of the offseason – extending their “dynasty” as league’s bottom cap space champion another year. It will be another uphill battle of contract restructures and player moves ahead of free agency in order to make any notable additions prior to the draft.
There is a long way to go to deem this crucial offseason a “success” for Mickey Loomis, Dennis Allen and co, however, bringing in a heavily sought after coaching candidate like Klint Kubiak is as good a start as you could have hoped for in doing so. For all of the criticism the higher ups in the organization have faced (from myself included) this should be well received news that sparks excitement for people around the organization.