Sunday night’s game at Candlestick Park will trigger great memories for Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak as he tries to avoid a three-game losing streak.
To break the skid, he’ll have to beat his former team, the team with which he won his first Super Bowl ring as the 49ers quarterbacks coach during the 1994 season.
During a media conference call this week, Kubiak said:
“It was just a one-year stop for me, but boy, it was an enjoyable one.”
Raising the Lombardi Trophy for the first time — after coming so close as a player — was quite a feat.
A career backup to John Elway in Denver, Kubiak was part of three Super Bowl-losing teams during the 1980’s before retiring in 1991 and entering coaching in the college ranks at his alma matter Texas A&M.
As the 49ers were loading up with free agents in the ’94 off-season, anticipating a Super Bowl run, Kubiak was hired to coach quarterbacks for offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan under head coach George Seifert.
Kubiak couldn’t complain about his first group of signal callers — and how could he. Steve Young was his starter, rookie Elvis Grbac was the backup and veteran Bill Musgrave was No. 3.
Knowing how to keep the ball moving from his own experience, Kubiak guided Young out of Joe Montana’s shadow to his best NFL season.
Young was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and Super Bowl MVP while posting career highs in completion percent (70.3) , touchdowns (35), rating (112.8), and rushing touchdowns (seven).
Equally memorable was their 38-28 home victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game — labeled the “Real Super Bowl” — where Young and Co. shed the “never able to win the big ones” label.
Meanwhile, Grbac — an eighth-round pick — was used a dozen times throughout the regular-season to mop up for Young as he began developing into an NFL starter.
Musgrave was inactive the entire year, but later followed Kubiak, Shanahan, and wide receiver Ed McCaffery to Denver where Kubiak became Elway’s offensive coordinator.
Kubiak won two more rings with the Broncos before taking the Texans head job in 2006 and inheriting David Carr, but still cherishes his one-year with the 49ers:
“I get one stop in San Francisco and we won a championship. It wasn’t easy. I remember our start and how difficult it was. We got rolling and played extremely well. We had a lot of great players and great people.”
As for his ’94 quarterback class, Young is a Hall of Famer and current ESPN commentator.
Grbac went a combined 40-30 as a starter for the 49ers, Chiefs and Ravens making the Pro Bowl in 2000; he’s now a high school football coach in Ohio.
Musgrave was cut prior to the Broncos’ back-to-back championships, but has since coached with seven NFL teams. He’s now the Vikings offensive coordinator.
But Sunday, Kubiak will be focused on beating the 49ers and getting Matt Schaub back on the saddle after two straight losses.
If he does it, he’ll add another success story to his Candlestick memory book.