Two 49ers Assistants Top My List for Steelers OC in 2024
There have been countless articles over the last several weeks regarding the offensive coordinator position for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The media and fanbase have twisted the narrative that head coach Mike Tomlin just wants a coach with past coordinator experience. While having coordinator experience is always helpful and recommended, sometimes there are dark horse candidates who have not received that opportunity yet.
There are two candidates whom I would prefer the Pittsburgh Steelers to hire for their vacant offensive coordinator role in 2024, and both of the assistant coaches are currently employed with the San Francisco 49ers. Passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak, the son of Super Bowl 50 and long-time NFL head coach Gary Kubiak, and Quarterbacks coach Brian Griese, former third-round draft selection of the Denver Broncos in 1998 and backup to John Elway in their Super Bowl victory in 1999 over the Atlanta Falcons.
Both Kubiak and Griese are qualified for the role, being solid position coaches who have worked their way up over the past several seasons. In fact, several days ago, the New Orleans Saints interviewed Kubiak and Griese for their offensive coordinator position ahead of their NFC Championship matchup versus the Detroit Lions.
This will be my seventh season coaching high school football in the state of Ohio, and I have been surrounded by Hall of Fame coaches and up-and-coming bright and young assistants. When one takes over a program that already has a strong nucleus, filling a void for the coordinator role is extremely vital and if done correctly, can propel the program to reach new heights.
Recently, our own Kevin Smith wrote an article titled ‘The Steelers May Not Be As Far Away From Contending As It Seems’. Smith said, “The only area where everyone has the Steelers beat, and where the Steelers must improve significantly if they want to truly contend, is the combination of the quarterback and offensive coordinator.” There could not have been a more perfect way to highlight the exact issue that has plagued the program since the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.
The one way to fix this scenario is to hire an outside assistant who has success either molding quarterbacks to be successful, or has put their stamp on an offense in some way and has improved it with their presence.
Passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak of the San Francisco 49ers has been there and done that. He has been around the game of football his entire life due to his upbringing with his father, coach Gary Kubiak. The National Football League and the successful offenses are the Shanahan and Kubiak offensive schemes. If you hear either of these last names, the offensive approach has worked for decades in the NFL and will continue to work due to the innovation and careful technical approach.
For the fans who are interested in a coach who has worn the title of offensive coordinator before, Kubiak was the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator in 2021, where the team finished with an 8-9 record and did not qualify for the playoffs. According to ProFootballReference, the Vikings passing offense was ranked 11th out of 32, their rushing offense was ranked 17th and for their total offense they were ranked 12th. This is not too bad considering their total defense was ranked 30th in the NFL, prompting them to finish with only eight wins.
Kubiak’s leadership and scheme helped several offensive players reach new heights.
Kirk Cousins: 4,221 Passing Yards | 33 Passing Touchdowns
Dalvin Cook: 1,159 Rushing Yards | 6 Rushing Touchdowns
Justin Jefferson: 1,616 Receiving Yards | 10 Receiving Touchdowns (Tied with Adam Thielen)
The following season, Kubiak went with Nathaniel Hackett to the Denver Broncos where that offense and team as a whole struggled. Prior to Hackett being fired, he turned over play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Kubiak. His first task as the play-caller was against the Raiders where they lost in overtime 22-16, falling to a 3-7 record. It was not until week 15 against the Cardinals that the team would register another win. The entire situation that Kubiak was placed into was not a healthy one as it was when he called plays in Minnesota the prior season.
This past season Kubiak has spent his time with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers as their passing game coordinator. The 49ers are a game away from the Super Bowl and have been extremely successful in all three phases of the game this season. Under Kubiak’s leadership, the passing game achieved 4,577 passing yards in the regular season, 252 yards in the postseason, and a total between the two of 34 touchdowns.
In contrast to the 49ers’ impressive passing game stats, the Pittsburgh Steelers registered only 15 total passing touchdowns in both the regular and postseason.
Kubiak Wrap Up:
There is no doubt in my mind that Kubiak is someone who will bring expertise and quality teaching to the program. His journey over the years in the collegiate rankings and NFL has battle-tested him. He has seen the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows and is someone who is only 36-years-old, relates to the athletes, and can come in and resurrect the offense from both quarterback play and the ground and air attack.
This name will be questionable from the fans of the program due to his short time in the coaching world. 49ers quarterbacks coach, Brian Griese, has only been a coach in the NFL for two seasons. During his career as a player, he finished with 119 touchdowns to 99 interceptions, threw for 19,440 yards and had a passer rating of 82.7. He has a positive win-to-loss ratio as a player, 45-38 and has a Pro Bowl nod as well.
While he is not the most successful former player, that does not mean he hasn’t made an impact on the players he has coached over the last two seasons, especially Brock Purdy.
Purdy under Griese has reached the NFC Championship in both seasons and has put up solid numbers.
2022 Purdy Stats:
Passing Yards: 1,374
Passer Rating: 107.3
* Did not start until later in the season.
2023 Purdy Stats:
Passing Yards: 4,280
Passer Rating: 113.0
* First full season as starter
Griese / Article Wrap Up:
I know, I know… Griese only has two seasons in the NFL as an assistant coach. I believe his two years under Kyle Shanahan and his staff has molded him to be able to come into Pittsburgh and help whichever quarterback that will be under center in 2024.
While I know this one may be controversial, I welcome your thoughts on both Griese and Kubiak as potential coordinators for the Pittsburgh Steelers.