Another name has been added to the list of targets for the Panthers’ head coaching search. Carolina has requested an interview with Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).
The Giants’ surprising performance this season, one which has seen them post a 9-7-1 record and qualify for the postseason, has largely been attributed to the team’s new coaching staff. That unit is led, of course, by first-year HC Brian Daboll, but Kafka has played a key role in the team’s offense as well.
Kafka, 35, joined Daboll in New York last offseason after beginning his NFL coaching career with the Chiefs. He established himself as a top candidate for the position given his work alongside Patrick Mahomes as Kansas City’s QBs coach and passing game coordinator. Once the Bills promoted Ken Dorsey to replace Daboll as their OC, it came as little surprise that Kafka was hired.
Eyebrows were raised, however, when Kafka received a long look in the offseason handling play-calling duties. That role was assumed to be Daboll’s, given his success at the helm of Buffalo’s offense prior to being hired. Instead, Kafka was named the team’s full-time play-caller in September, putting him in an important position with respect to Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and Co.
The Giants finished the season with middle-of-the road figures in scoring and total offense, but the play of Jones and Barkley in particular helped the unit outperform expectations. That has led to questions about each of their futures with the team, but also highlighted Kafka’s potential early on in his career. His inclusion in the Panthers’ search thus comes as little surprise as the rebuilding squad looks for a long-term Matt Rhule replacement.
Their interview process – which will also include interim HC Steve Wilks – has largely taken the form of offensive candidates. While experienced options such as Frank Reich and Jim Harbaugh are on Carolina’s radar, they are also eyeing younger options like Ben Johnson, Shane Steichen and Dorsey. Kafka certainly falls into the latter category; while his relative lack of experience as a play-caller could keep him from earning a head coaching job in this year’s cycle, it is clear he has established himself as a name to watch.