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Gary Kubiak discusses Peyton Manning's role in new offense

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Watching Peyton Manning is one thing. Coaching him is another.

And that's something Gary Kubiak has learned over the last three months, as he's shepherded Manning and the rest of the Broncos through his first offseason back in Denver, a decade after he left here for Houston.

In fact, there's a reminder right outside his office window every morning. First in. Last out. Every time.

"It's over the top," Kubiak told me, after Tuesday's practice. "It's awesome. It's fun."

Asked for a time that really stuck out as an eye-opener on Manning's irrepressible drive, Kubiak laughed and said, "Many of those. Every day. He is here around the clock. It's been a joy. It's very challenging for me as a coach -- it's fun, it's a joy."

To be sure, there's been plenty of change here over the last five months. On Tuesday, during the first day of mandatory minicamp, 19 veterans left practice with 45 minutes left in the session -- something that looked almost like a protest on its face, but was a measure by the new coach to save his vets' legs. The offense looks a little like it did in the late-'90's under Kubiak. The defense looks a little like it did in the mid-'90s with Wade Phillips also back, after two decades away.

But the biggest storyline remains the same: Can the Broncos get Manning over the top one more time?

With the spring wrapping up, I had the chance to go in depth with Kubiak on that matter. As you might anticipate, his expectations aren't much different than Manning's ...

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So, with three months of work together under your belt, how has it gone with Peyton?

Kubiak: It's been very good. To be 39, I'm amazed at his conditioning level, the shape he's in, how he moves around, the feet that he has. He's responded very good. We try to dedicate a lot of our time under center, because that's something he hasn't done much of, so we're probably 3-to-1 under center-to-gun. But we're also continuing to do all the things he's done throughout his career. It's been good. I rested him, worked him about two out of every three days, as far as when we can go on the field during OTAs, trying to get Brock (Osweiler) a lot of reps. But Peyton's been awesome to work with.

Has your experience coaching an older John Elway helped you in working with a 39-year-old Peyton?

Kubiak: There have been some similarities. I look back and, at that stage in John's career, when I came back, we were trying to focus on getting the team better. And we were trying to focus on John not taking so much on himself, spreading the responsibility a little bit. What we're trying to do (now) is get better as a group. I know Peyton's gonna do his job. He'll do everything you ask him to do. If you asked him to run every practice and make every schedule, he'd do it. But everybody else has to do their part, too. We want to get better around him. We're gonna be young up front, so it's a big responsibility on us as coaches, where we can protect him and do a good job up front for him. I'm doing everything I can to make this team as good as it can possibly be -- and know we can win a lot of ways, not just one.

Elway won a Super Bowl throwing for 123 yards. There were times in Peyton's career where, if he threw for 123, the team was losing, no doubt about it. Is that the idea here, to make it so he can throw for 123 and win?

Kubiak: I'll tell you what I told the team: I said to the guys, "Listen, there's been a lot of talk about what I do offensively. We're gonna do what we do best." If we gotta throw it 50 times, we're gonna do that. We got a good running back, we got a good young back (C.J. Anderson) and we've got some depth at the running back position. I'd like to see us run the ball and be physical as a football team. I think that's very consistent (as a winning formula) in this league. I don't know exactly what it's gonna look like or where our strength is gonna be. But I think we've got some flexibility now as an offensive football team. We should be able to do a lot of things and not just throw it or just run it. We should be pretty consistent in what we do. Let's see what happens. But the most important thing is that Peyton knows that everybody around him is gonna do their job. And we're gonna improve around him.

You've had mobile quarterbacks over the course of your career -- guys like Elway and Jake Plummer. And your scheme incorporates getting the quarterback to the edge. Is Peyton a fit for that or are you going to have to adjust?

Kubiak: It's an everyday process. Peyton can move and do all those things -- that's not a problem. How often do we do them? I don't know. I keep going back to being with (Joe) Flacco last year. Joe's very athletic, and I think we booted 26 or 27 times in 16 games. We're not out there booting all the time, but if people don't hold on the run, we're gonna boot, and Peyton has done it at practice. He actually gets mad at me when I give the boot reps to a younger quarterback -- he looks at it like, "Hey, what about me?" I think he's been very challenged. He's had to learn some new stuff, and I think that's good for everybody. It's challenging. It's been challenging for me as a coach, and it's also very rewarding for our offensive coaching staff to sit down with him and listen to him, because he is so brilliant.

So, what's the biggest adjustment for Peyton?

Kubiak: I think the biggest adjustment is really just getting back under a center a bunch. Obviously, you're less predictable under center, as far as run and pass. But he made that (adjustment) very quickly. I think the next thing has been our commitment to running the ball in practice. We're basically a 50-50 team when we practice, we're not 70 percent throw or 70 percent shotgun. We're right down the middle. We wanna give ourselves a chance to be good at everything. So I think that's been a little bit of an adjustment for him. And then asking him to take days and say, "Today, you're gonna coach." I know that's been tough on him, because he's let me know that. Hopefully, that'll be good over the long haul.

It's been a fight to have him give up reps?

Kubiak: He's just so competitive. He's a guy who wants to control it -- that's just the way he is, that's what makes him great. But I think he's responded. And physically, he looks really, really good.

You've been a quarterback, and around quarterbacks, almost your whole life, so I'm sure there's not much that catches you off guard. After working with him, is there anything that surprises you about Peyton?

Kubiak: I'll just say this: I'm amazed, at this stage of his career, how great his feet are, in the pocket and bouncing around and moving. This guy is taking care of himself. I'm an early bird, I sit in my office and I've got a big window. He's the first guy in the building, the last guy to leave. To do it that long, at that level, and still have that drive each and every day ... Always heard that, always thought I knew those things, but now I get to see it every day.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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