Time heals all wedgies, but there’s a reason Kyle Shanahan didn’t babysit Christian McCaffrey back in the day. Once the moms in Dove Valley took one look at Gary Kubiak’s scouting report, Shanny was a non-starter.
“Kyle was the babysitter for my oldest son and his brother,” Kubiak, the former Broncos coach and quarterback, recalled to me over the phone from Las Vegas.
“And one time, Kyle got mad at Klint and hung him on the doorknob by his underwear.”
While Mike Shanahan and Kubiak were pushing buttons and kicking tail for the Broncos and 49ers, a young Kyle, the Cherry Creek alum now coaching in his second Super Bowl with San Francisco in the last four years, got tasked with babysitting the Kubiak boys. Sometimes, things went … you know, sideways.
“Somebody told me the other day, ‘You know that you’ve been part of three world championships with Ed McCaffrey?’” the elder Kubiak said. “So, yeah, we have a lot of history together. And Christian was running around as a little kid back in those days. Life comes full circle, man.”
No kidding. Klint, the kid whose tighty-whiteys once dangled from said doorknob, is now Kyle’s offensive passing game specialist and, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the next offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints. Klay, that other young rapscallion, is Kyle’s assistant quarterbacks coach with the Niners. Flail and forgive, apparently.
“It’s really interesting, because you get so wrapped up in the team, you’ll watch them all year long and will be talking to the boys all the time,” said Kubiak, 62 years young and still the last coach to lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl (50). “And obviously, Kyle, and my relationship with him and Mike, I think we’re all kind of, as families with that history, we kind of get all wrapped up in Kyle’s team. It’s been a lot of fun.
“It’s just a joy. I miss football a lot, and this gets me a chance to stay in it.”
The Shanahans and McCaffreys aren’t the only families of Front Range football royalty with skin in the Big Game. Whereas Broncos legends Mike and Ed have a son each on the San Fran sidelines for Super Bowl LVIII Sunday, Kubiak, who flew into Sin City from the family farm in Texas last week, has got two of ’em.
“I really just (told) them to make sure you enjoy it,” the elder Kubiak said. “‘We all know it’s hard. It’s a long season, it’s a grind. Don’t take anything for granted because the chances of getting back there are really, really hard. Your dad was really fortunate. You guys make sure you enjoy this week and feel everything. You’ve gotta make sure you enjoy it.’”
The ties that bind this one are forged in blood and steel, tinged with orange and blue. The first of Gary’s four rings came in January 1995 with the Niners, where Mike was offensive coordinator, the elder Kubiak was quarterbacks coach and Ed was a wideout. Christian, the Niners’ bell-cow tailback and former Valor Christian star, was born in June 1996, after Dad, Big Shanny and Kubes moved to Denver, where they won two more Lombardis together.
Kyle then worked under Gary with the Houston Texans from 2006-09, spending the last two seasons as Kubes’ offensive coordinator.
“The chances that you’re now grown up and playing pro football and for the same team your dad played for, it’s interesting how it worked out,” the elder Kubiak said.
“And for Kyle to have his (relationships) in Denver and for Christian to do what he does and the position his family is in, it’s amazing — all those kids, Luke (McCaffrey), the one at Rice, I saw him play this year.
“You’ve got to enjoy it. All of a sudden, time flies.”
Little Shanny’s Niners are everything Mike and Gary’s Broncos used to be, then lost to the ether. Best left tackle on the planet. Deebo. Aiyuk. McCaffrey. George Kittle is arguably the fourth-most dangerous option on any snap, which is a Hannibal-Lecter level of scary.
Which is not to slight 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, the Iowa State coup who turned a No. 3 overall pick, Trey Lance, into Mr. Irrelevant. But given how many times the San Francisco defense found itself bent like a Gumby doll this postseason, conventional wisdom says it’ll take at least 29-30 points to win this game, on this rostrum, against the best quarterback of his generation.
We know what we’ll get from Patrick Mahomes. Will we get the Purdy of the first half of the NFC title game, all misfiring and happy feet, seeding doubts that the moment was too big? Or the Purdy of the second half?
The one who flipped from playoff caterpillar to postseason butterfly? The one who channeled regular-season Lamar Jackson? The one whose legs turned nothings into somethings, improvising the Lions’ entire defensive game plan into a pile of ash?
If regular-season Jackson had shown up in the AFC championship, and if the football gods didn’t enjoy torturing the city of Buffalo so much, the Chiefs don’t crash this party in the first place. More’s the pity. Go Niners. Go Kubes.
“I do follow things (with the Broncos) and I watch what’s going on,” the elder Kubiak continued. “I spent so many years of my life up there.
“I know (Broncos coach) Sean (Payton) very well. We know (Broncos GM) George (Paton) very well. (I’ve had) good conversations talking to people. There are still a lot of people within the organization who were there (all those) years with (myself) and Mike.”
Life comes full circle man. Time flies. This week, while Klint and Klay are burning the midnight oil with Kyle on Super Bowl prep, it’s Gary’s time, grandpa’s time, to do the babysitting.
No wedgies. He swears.
“It’s OK,” Kubes laughed. “It’s my turn. They helped me for years.”