LAS VEGAS _ Other than Vegas headliner Carrot Top surfacing on a media bus in full regalia headed to Monday's opening night, the first Sin City Super Bowl got off to a rather staid start by The Strip's standards.
But what 49ers passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak has brought to Vegas for Sunday's Super Bowl against the Chiefs is apparently not going to stay in Vegas. Multiple reports have him headed to New Orleans to take the Saints offensive coordinator job as the Zac Taylor coaching tree continues to grow.
"Zac, honestly, is one of the main reasons I'm coaching right now," Kubiak insisted Monday night in a small, quiet space of raucous Allegiant Stadium. "I got to be in a room with him every day, sit right next to him, got to watch him work, saw him interact with the players. I said to myself, 'I want to do it the way Zac is doing it.'"
Zacmen have been in demand this offseason.
Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan was interviewed by a handful of teams before the Titans wouldn't let him out of their building and made him head coach.
Bengals quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher was pursued by a couple of teams as a coordinator before he was named as Callahan's replacement.
After 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy fired an NFL-best 113 passer rating this season in a scheme guided by him, Kubiak had reportedly been interviewed by the Patriots and Bears for their OC jobs before seemingly landing in New Orleans.
Kubiak, 36, four years younger than Taylor, is part of that legendary Texas A&M graduate assistant office ("closet," Taylor has called it) in 2010. Taylor was the GA for tight ends. Ben Martin, a former Bengals assistant coach, was the GA for the offensive line. Kubiak, son of Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, was the GA to an up-and-coming wide receivers coach named Troy Walters, now the Bengals estimable wide receivers coach.
"Your dad is a huge influence in everything," Klint Kubiak said. "As a young coach, Zac Taylor got me started."
College Station is the last place they coached together, but they've remained close. Kubiak has climbed the ladder with three teams in the last eight seasons, serving the last three as the Vikings offensive coordinator and the passing game coordinator for Denver and San Francisco.
The Xs and Os of Taylor and Kubiak may not fall that close to the tree since they've been with different teams, yet they're from the same West Coast garden. And, besides, Kubiak took more than Xs and Os from Taylor, then just four years removed from his 2006 Big 12 Player of the Year season at Nebraska.
"Zac was an accomplished college football player who didn't have to take me under his wing," Kubiak says, "and show me how to draw pictures on the computer, how to use the power point, how to turn the copier on, how to block power, how the quarterback reads the plays, and he did.
"He was a graduate assistant. No ego. He just wanted to be a good coach. I was really drawn to him. I saw how competent and how smart he was and I just wanted to learn as much as I could."
When Taylor was asked a few weeks ago after Callahan graduated if age 40 was too young to be a tree, he laughed and said no. But then he said, quite seriously, each coach is a composite of the coaches he works with and under.
On Monday as he prepared to coach in his first Super Bowl, Kubiak wasn't worried about being on a tree.
"I just count him as a friend and I'm really proud of everything he's accomplished. I know how he treats people. I'm not surprised at his success," Kubiak said.
LEWIS VEGAS: Taylor's predecessor in Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis, has his own tree (Darrin Simmons, Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden, Hue Jackson, Paul Guenther), and he's got another branch in new Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce.
In his new role as assistant head coach of the Raiders (he sees it more as "assistant to the head coach"), Lewis left Las Vegas Sunday as the Super Bowl engulfed the town and he'll return next week after the confetti settles as he continues to help Pierce make the transition from Vegas' interim head coach.
But he'll take plenty of calls from Pierce in the meantime. They had already talked early Monday morning and it reminds him of a certain relationship he had during his 16 seasons in Cincinnati. Maybe he didn't officially have an assistant, but he had a sounding board in Bengals president Mike Brown and his six-plus decades of NFL experience.
"I did have one. He just owned the team," Lewis says of a tandem that spawned four division titles and seven playoff appearances.
"It will be that kind of role. Yeah, I'm Mike, but I'm not the owner. We talked every day and that's what AP and I are doing."
Plenty of mutual admiration. Lewis and Brown still talk often enough. They talked just last week. Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn and Lewis talked the other day. Executive vice president Katie Blackburn reached out a few days ago to inform him of the death of Bill Scanlon, the Bengals' long-time chief financial officer.
The Raiders travel to Cincinnati this coming season and Lewis returns to Paycor Stadium for the first time with another club since he became the Bengals all-time winningest coach. But his first time back in the building after his run ended following the 2018 season came during last year's Ring of Honor ceremony, where he visited with ownership in Brown's office.
"I had so much fun. I'll probably be up in the press box," Lewis says of his return.
Lewis and Pierce, the Giants' Super Bowl linebacker, worked together for four seasons at Arizona State before Pierce left for the Raiders last season in a move they also discussed.
When Pierce became the interim head coach late last year, Lewis joined him after Arizona State's season as a man who has seen and done it all in the NFL. He's got plenty left to give.
"Antonio is a very smart, hard-driving, hard-working guy … I committed to help him in this," Lewis says. "Everybody who spoke with me wanted to make sure that if he got the job full-time, I was still going to be able to be a part of it. It was important to (owner) Mark Davis, (team president) Sandra (Morgan), the alumni involved, Richard Seymour and Ken Herock, on the search committee. It was hard for me to waver at that point.
"I really enjoyed the players, the atmosphere, the coaching staff. For me, it was a lot of fun. It was great to be around adults again."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Jake Browning, the Bengals backup quarterback who led them to a 4-3 finish with Joe Burrow sidelined, had two big fans at Allegient Stadium Monday night. Kubiak was his quarterbacks coach for his two seasons in Minnesota and Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo put his arm around him in Kansas City after Browning nearly beat the Chiefs in the next-to-last game of the season before Patrick Mahomes caught him in the fourth quarter.
"I'm really proud of what he's done. I'm not surprised at all. It was fun to watch him down the stretch and take his opportunity. How aggressive he was and how he took advantage of it," Kubiak said.
Which means, this past season Kubiak coached two of the NFL's top five passers when it comes to yards per pass. Purdy's 9.6 was the best since Kurt Warner's Greatest Show on Turf of a quarter century ago and Browning's 8.0 was tied with presumptive MVP Lamar Jackson.
Browning's playmaking staked the Bengals to a 17-7 lead against Spagnuolo's top-five outfit, which backed up his effusive pregame praise of how the Bengals system reminded him of how the Patriots scored points even without Tom Brady. On Monday night, he recalled what he said to Browning as he left the field.
"I told him I was really impressed with what he had done since Joe had gotten hurt," Spagnuolo said. "There's an example of somebody who doesn't get a lot of reps during the course of (the season) and then all of a sudden steps in and what he did was really impressive. That's what I told him. I got a lot of respect for him when I watched him on tape. Those coaches do a really good job." ….
49ers rookie kicker Jake Moody is not surprised that Bengals rookie punter Brad Robbins has drawn high marks for his holding. His punting was up and down, but his holding was iron-fisted. They were teammates at Michigan and Robbins, a sixth-rounder, got it down well enough for Moody to get drafted in the third round.
"I never had any doubt. I knew he would always get it down, no matter where the snap was going to be," Moody said Monday night. "He works really hard on it. I've seen him catch the Jugs machines that the receivers use to catch passes, he'll use to catch snaps. He'll just sit out there and catch for hours and it shows in the games."
Moody is also an admirer of the man Robbins now holds for, long-ball kicker Evan McPherson.
"I've watched him a decent amount. He and I have similar kicking styles. We're about the same size and age and he's another good guy to watch," said Moody, 24, four months younger than McPherson. "I've picked his brain on some things. We've met once or twice and we played them this year and talked before the game and with Brad being there, that's another connection. Great kicker. I love watching him. He kicked in this game as a rookie and he'd be a good guy to talk to this week."
No matter what happens Sunday, Moody and Robbins will no doubt talk about it over an offseason golf trip they're planning.
"We're big golfers," Moody said. "He's a good golfer, but I usually beat him." …