New York Giants Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka interviewed for the Houston Texans head coaching position this week. Deepi Sidhu spoke with Charlotte Carroll, who covers the Giants for The Athletic, to get insight on Kafka as a head coaching candidate. Carroll recently published an in-depth feature on the young offensive mind: “Mike Kafka is in demand: Inside the Giants OC’s meteoric rise to NFL head coach candidate.”
DS: Mike Kafka finishes his first season as the Giants offensive coordinator. He’s already landed head coaching interviews with the Texans Colts Panthers. What makes him such an intriguing candidate during this head coaching cycle?
CC: I think the NFL is always looking for that next young, offensive-minded coach and Mike Kafka fits that bill. He comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree. He’s got a pedigree of his own. He was a player at Northwestern, went back to his alma mater to coach. He was there a year before Andy called him and he went to Kansas City as a young assistant, and then he became kind of Patrick Mahomes mentor and the quarterbacks coach there pretty quickly and then a Giants offensive coordinator very quickly. So I don’t think it hurts that he outperformed expectations or helped the Giants outperform expectations this year, taking them from 31st in scoring offense and yardage into the playoffs. So, I mean, he’s kind of done everything you can ask for as a first-year offensive coordinator and it’s a hot name.
DS: You mentioned Mike Kafka beginning his NFL coaching career in Kansas City under Andy Reid. He worked with Patrick Mahomes. How did he adapt that experience and then apply it to Daniel Jones and the Giants offense to really get it kicking this year?
CC: I think the biggest thing that Mike Kafka brought to not only Kansas City and anywhere he’s been is that he was a former quarterback. He spent his time at Northwestern and then he was an NFL quarterback, kind of jumping around as a backup for a couple of years. So he’s got that experience and he knows what it takes. So he’s able to bring that relatability. And then when he got to Kansas City and Andy was like, Patrick is yours to create a plan with, see what’s going on. He really worked with him on his fundamentals and kind of really took it into his own to do that. And then in New York, now that he’s in the position of offensive coordinator, what he did is gave quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney kind of that same freedom that he had in Kansas City to really develop a plan, work with Daniel Jones in a way that those two were comfortable. Then the three of them have really worked well together. He’s also taken input from not only other coaches on the staff, but also the players as well.
DS: What is he like off the field and what qualities would make Mike Kafka a good head coach?
CC: Everyone I spoke with said competitive, hard working and then they were also very clear to stress that he was such a family man. He’s got three kids, his wife, Alli, who he met at Northwestern so he’s just a very good person from everyone that I’ve gotten with. And I think that has been the crux of this, is that he cares about the people in his life. He’s relatable hence talking about all that quarterback talk. He’s got the player experience and that’s not far-removed, but he’s also very, very hard working and he stayed in touch with a lot of people throughout his career.
DS: Any particular memory or moment, I know you haven’t been covering Kafka that long as a Giants beat reporter, but anything that really stands out to you?
CC: The biggest thing that’s interesting in the New York media market is that when he’s had his press conferences, everyone’s kind of commented on his very businesslike approach. It’s not maybe some of the personality that you see in other coordinators or head coaches, but when you get him off to the side and you’re talking, he’s very personable, very animated, when you get him on like a football topic or whatever, he just lights up. So I think that dynamic of how he kind of approaches his press conferences might be something that people have highlighted on, but that is actually something I’ve talked about with when I was reporting the story. And Pat Fitzgerald, his Northwestern coach, had a really good quote on that that I wrote in the story just about, that’s very much like Mike. I mean, he’s very business. It’s not about him. It’s all about winning and planning for the next game.