Broncos OC Justin Outten on getting passed up for play-calling duties: Klint Kubiak “has a great track record”

When Nathaniel Hackett decided last week to give play-calling duties to one of his assistants, the choice turned out to be pretty clear.

The job went to quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak because of his day-to-day interaction with quarterback Russell Wilson and also because he called plays last year for Minnesota. That also meant that the responsibility did not fall to offensive coordinator Justin Outten, who, by most organizational charts, would have seemed to be next in line.

What did he think of that?

“Through the whole process, Klint is a proven play-caller,” said Outten, who has never called plays in regular-season games in the NFL. “In our situation right now, you just can’t move forward with a guy in my position who’s not called the game. He’s got a great track record with what he did with the Vikings.”

Hackett earlier this week said he has “full confidence in a lot of guys on our staff.” He added, “I think Justin can definitely call plays in this league. I wanted him to be right next to Russell because he’s got a good relationship with him and to be able to kind of talk him through all the pictures (on the video tablet between series).

“I thought that was kind of the best chance we had.”

Kubiak called the game from the coaches’ box this past Sunday and Outten moved from the box down to the sideline where he had a direct line to talk with Wilson between offensive series and strategize on the headset with Kubiak and Hackett.

“It’s the play-caller’s choice on where they feel more comfortable,” Outten said. “Having the play sheet in front of you, kind of going through everything in a controlled environment is a little easier for some guys. That was (Kubiak)’s choice for that.

“Being on the sideline is just a little bit more exciting than being in the booth, as you can imagine. Just being around the guys, feeling the vibe on the sideline, connecting with each position and talking throughout the game and then being right next to Russell, I thought it worked out well.”

Hackett and Wilson both praised the work Outten did during the game on the sideline. Otherwise, the first-year coordinator’s role hasn’t changed much. He’s just helping a different primary play-caller.

“My position is supporting Klint in any way possible,” Outten said. “Giving him ideas throughout the game — we were going back and forth throughout the series on what was next — and I thought it was a very good collaboration.”

If Outten had any frustrations about being passed over for play-calling duties, he didn’t show them Wednesday. He spent the past three seasons on Green Bay’s staff with Hackett as the tight ends coach. Before that, he spent three seasons in Atlanta — 2016 as an intern and then two seasons as an offensive assistant. As recently as 2015, he was an assistant coach at Westfield High School in Texas.

Since Hackett originally handled the play-calling duties, he did not offer that responsibility to any coaches he may have considered hiring for the coordinator position when he first got the head-coaching job in late January. That list included fellow former Packers assistants Luke Getsy — now in his first year calling plays for the Chicago Bears — and Adam Stenavich, who was promoted to offensive coordinator in Green Bay but serves in a non-play-calling role to head coach Matt LaFleur.

Instead, 11 weeks into the season, the duty now falls on a man who actually was calling plays in the NFC North last year.

“He’s done such a fine job working as hard as he has to do everything we can to win a football game,” Hackett said of Kubiak. “For me, when he came here we had been in the same division, so I got to see what he was doing first-hand and how he was doing everything with the Minnesota Vikings. So I had a ton of respect for him.

“Being a coach’s kid, that’s always something that’s a plus. As we’ve been here, getting to know him, being around him, watching his professionalism, his humor, everything.

“Everything is great and I think the players really like it.”

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