Mike Kafka

Seahawks Speak With Adam Gase About OC Opening

Could Adam Gase be back running an NFL offense in 2021? The recently fired Jets coach has spoken with the Seahawks about their offensive coordinator vacancy, a source told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Gase is one of the most polarizing coaches in recent memory, and this news will surely have some Seattle fans fired up after Gase’s disastrous tenure in New York. But prior to his time with the Jets, Gase was widely respected in league circles for his work with the Broncos and then as head coach of the Dolphins, so this news isn’t too surprising all things considered.

Bill Belichick also raved about Gase’s abilities toward the end of the season, and there’s been speculation that he could join his staff in New England, potentially as quarterbacks coach with Jedd Fisch departing or even as OC if Josh McDaniels landed a head coaching job. Fowler also notes the Seahawks plan to speak with Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka about the opening.

Kafka, only 33, has been on the receiving end of some buzz in recent years as a quick riser. We heard when Doug Pederson was fired that the latest Andy Reid protege could be a candidate for the Eagles’ head coaching job.

Whatever the case, Gase and Kafka are far from the only two candidates to replace Brian Schottenheimer in Seattle. They’ve also been linked to fellow recently fired head coaches Anthony Lynn and Pederson. Clearly, as Fowler notes, they’re casting a wide net.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-24-21 (11:20am CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Fire Doug Pederson

Seismic news out of Philadelphia, as Doug Pederson is out as Eagles head coach, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. Originally it was reported that Pederson was expected to be back in 2021, but that was before Philly’s Week 17 debacle.

We heard yesterday that his status was still up in the air, and a Monday meeting with owner Jeffrey Lurie has culminated in his dismissal. It’s a remarkable fall from grace for a coach that was on top of the world following Super Bowl LII just a few short years ago. It’s yet another reminder of how quickly things change in the NFL. The 2017 season of course ended in a championship, and although Pederson made the playoffs in each of the next two years, tensions flared in the organization.

The 9-7 campaigns in 2018 and 2019 didn’t meet expectations, even as Pederson juggled less than ideal circumstances to get to the postseason both times. Things reached a boiling point this season as Carson Wentz regressed to a new low, and tempers flared in the building about how to handle the situation. Eventually Wentz was benched, with the team turning to second-round rookie Jalen Hurts.

The team dealt with a mountain of injuries on both sides of the ball yet again, and they entered Week 17 at 4-10-1. That’s when Hurts was benched for Nate Sudfeld late in a close game against Washington, leading to a lot of criticism of Pederson amidst accusations of tanking for a better draft pick. It always seemed like the front office had a hand in that decision though, and it’s possible that’s partly what led to the breakup.

To that end, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets that what the situation “boiled down to” was that “Pederson was sick of people telling him what to do.” It sounds like there was a power struggle between Pederson and GM Howie Roseman that Pederson ultimately lost. This could also be a sign that Lurie and Roseman are inclined to try to salvage Wentz, as we heard recently that Wentz and Pederson’s relationship was beyond repair. 

As for who could take over for Pederson, Rapoport tweets to “keep an eye on” Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka as someone the Eagles might consider. Kafka, like Pederson, is a proud member of the Andy Reid coaching tree and played for the Eagles for a couple of seasons a decade ago. The Eagles wanted to hire him as OC a year ago but Reid blocked the move, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.

It’s not every day that a Super Bowl winning coach hits the open market, and Pederson certainly isn’t going to go away quietly. His new-found availability throws an interesting wrinkle into all the coaching searches currently underway. Pederson has a “strong relationship” with Jets GM Joe Douglas, which could make him a candidate for New York’s open job, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Douglas, of course, was in the Eagles’ front office from 2016-19.

Pederson spent around a dozen years in the league as a quarterback, mostly as a backup. He got his first NFL coaching gig as a quality control coach under Reid with the Eagles in 2009, then eventually became Reid’s OC in Kansas City before getting hired by the Eagles as head coach prior to the 2016 season. He finished his run in Philly with a record of 46-39-1.

There will certainly be many post-mortems in the days and weeks ahead, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted on all of the fallout. Ron Rivera, hired by Washington on December 31st 2019, is now the longest-tenured coach in the NFC East.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

HC/GM Rumors: Lynn, Harbaugh, Bears

Three head coaches and two GMs have already been fired this season, and there will be more dismissals to come. We learned this morning that Eagles HC Doug Pederson is on the hot seat, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says Chargers HC Anthony Lynn is in danger of losing his job as well.

The Bolts gave Lynn a modest vote of confidence this offseason by handing him a one-year extension through 2021, but despite the emergence of rookie signal-caller Justin Herbert, Lynn’s squad has limped to a 3-8 record. Several of those losses have been of the heartbreaking variety that Chargers fans have become accustomed to, and Lynn’s in-game decisions have been called into question.

The 51-year-old is highly-regarded in the Chargers’ building, and he did lead his club to a 12-4 record two seasons ago. If he does get fired, he probably won’t have a difficult time finding another HC gig.

Now for more from the HC/GM rumor mill:

  • Jim Harbaugh‘s days with the University of Michigan appear to be numbered, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk says the former 49ers HC is eyeing an NFL return. Florio adds that a number of clubs are already “doing their homework” on Harbaugh, who could be one of a number of prominent college coaches looking to make a leap to the pros.
  • A few weeks ago, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports said the Bears “could” move on from HC Matt Nagy at season’s end. Now, La Canfora says it’s more likely than not that Nagy will be ousted and that Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald will be Chicago’s top choice for Nagy’s replacement.
  • Although Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has drawn plenty of interest and is expected to get his first HC job this offseason, Kansas City quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Mike Kafka is also a name to watch, per La Canfora. We knew that the Eagles were interested in Kafka as an OC last offseason, and JLC says the 33-year-old former QB also had the opportunity to take a head coaching interview. Kafka declined, as he wanted to continue to learn under Andy Reid, but he will be a top target for HC and OC openings in 2021.
  • As far as GM jobs go, former Giants general manager Jerry Reese is expected to draw interest for the Lions‘ GM opening, as La Canfora writes. Reese, who was fired by Big Blue in 2017, wants to return to an NFL front office and has the support from advisors to the Ford family (including Ernie Accorsi, whom Reese succeeded as Giants GM in 2007).
  • The Texans are expected to interview former Chiefs and Browns GM John Dorsey, according to La Canfora. Dorsey was fired by Cleveland at the end of last season, but it would be fair to blame more of the Browns’ disappointing 2019 campaign on former head coach Freddie Kitchens than on Dorsey. After all, Cleveland is now poised for a playoff berth with a roster that Dorsey largely constructed, and Dorsey also has ties to Bieniemy, who has been heavily connected to Houston’s HC job.
  • An unfortunate neck injury may have brought an end to A.Q. Shipley‘s playing career, but he will get the chance to join the Buccaneers‘ coaching staff, as Carmen Vitali of the team’s official website writes. Shipley has long been a favorite of Tampa HC Bruce Arians, who believes the veteran center has all the makings of an excellent coach.

AFC West Notes: Mahomes, Broncos, Raiders

Everyone has known for a while now that when Patrick Mahomes signs his first contract extension, it’s going to involve some eye-popping numbers. The Chiefs are expected to pursue an extension sometime after the draft, and there has been a lot of chatter about Mahomes becoming the first player to eclipse $40MM in annual salary. While he wouldn’t get into specifics about negotiations, Mahomes made it clear in a recent interview with Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports that he’s in Kansas City for the long haul. “I want to make sure I do it the smart way and do it the right way, and so I don’t know exactly which way that is, yet. I know that my people and the Chiefs’ people will talk about it, and will do it at the right time and for the betterment for the team. But I’m excited to be a Kansas City Chief for a very long time, and I know that’s going to be handled the right way because of the people the Kansas City Chiefs have in their organization,” he explained.

There has been some speculation the Chiefs will try to get him on somewhat of a team-friendly deal in order to spread their cap resources around, similarly to what the Patriots have done with Tom Brady. Mahomes is going to get paid big-time either way, but he did seem to indicate that keeping their core together is a priority for him. “Whichever way possible, we’re going to do it and we’re gonna try to keep as many people on this team as we possibly can that won the Super Bowl this year so we can run it back again next year,” he said.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Speaking of the Chiefs, they made a couple of assistant coaching moves today. Quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka has been given the additional title of passing game coordinator, and the team hired Andy Hill as a special teams assistant. The Eagles were interested in Kafka for their offensive coordinator vacancy, but Kansas City was ultimately able to retain him. All the way back in October we heard that Kafka was well-respected in the league and considered by some to be a future head coach. The former backup quarterback is the latest in a long line of Andy Reid assistants to get buzz.
  • The Broncos have a crowded backfield, but it’s about to get a little thinner. Both Devontae Booker and Theo Riddick will be allowed to walk in free agency, sources told Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link). Booker was drafted by Denver in the fourth-round back in 2016, and had an up and down career with the team. He was the team’s starter for some of his rookie season, and he often played a big role on passing downs. At the same time, he was often relegated to the bench for extended stretches. 27 now, it’ll be interesting to see how his market develops. Riddick is another passing-downs specialist who signed with Denver this past summer after a productive six-year run with the Lions. He ended up missing the entire season with a shoulder injury, although Klis notes that he is healthy now and has been medically cleared. He’s 28 now, and will likely have a tough time finding much guaranteed money coming off the injury.
  • The Raiders are believed to be interested in signing linebacker Nick Vigil, sources told Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio and Insidethebirds.com. Vigil, an impending free agent, spent the first four years of his career with the Bengals. He started all 16 games for Cincy this past season, racking up 111 tackles and five passes defended. Vigil will likely be seeking a decent-sized contract, and he should have a relatively strong market. Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther coached Vigil in Cincinnati, so there’s a lot of familiarity between the two sides.

Chiefs To Retain Mike Kafka

Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka isn’t going anywhere. Kafka will stick on Andy Reid’s coaching staff in 2020, sources tell Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter), which means that he won’t be leaving for the Eagles’ offensive coordinator vacancy or any other club.

The Eagles had interest in Kafka as an OC candidate, but they’ve been informed that Reid won’t let him stray. It’s possible that Kafka could receive a new title to stay in KC, but nothing has been made official on that front. Eric Bieniemy did not land a head coaching job in this cycle, so a bump up to OC is off the table.

With that, the Eagles have lost out on yet another OC option. USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell was on the radar, but earlier this week, he opted to return to the Trojans. Before that, Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban declined their request for an interview and ex-Redskins OC Kevin O’Connell accept the Rams’ OC job.

The Eagles drafted Kafka in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and the Northwestern product spent his first two seasons in the league as Philly’s backup/third-string signal-caller. After that, he parlayed his football IQ into a successful coaching career. After serving as the Chiefs’ offensive quality control coach in 2017, he was elevated to QB coach in 2018, the same year Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm.

Eagles Expected To Request OC Interview With Mike Kafka

The Eagles are still on the lookout for a new offensive coordinator after firing Mike Groh earlier this month, and their search could lead them to a familiar face. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Philadelphia is expected to request an interview with Chiefs QB coach Mike Kafka.

The Eagles drafted Kafka in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and the Northwestern product spent his first two seasons in the league as Philly’s backup/third-string signal-caller. He got looks with a number of clubs after he was cut by the Eagles in the summer of 2012, but he chose to end his playing career and try his hand at coaching in 2016, returning to his alma mater as an offensive graduate assistant.

His football IQ was always considered perhaps his best trait, and he has risen quickly through the coaching ranks. After serving as the Chiefs’ offensive quality control coach in 2017, he was elevated to QB coach in 2018, the same year Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm. We heard back in October that Kafka was considered a future NFL head coach, and he may have been promoted to Kansas City OC if Eric Bieniemy had gotten a head coaching job this year.

But because Eagles head coach Doug Pederson calls offensive plays, Rapoport says Chiefs head coach Andy Reid may block the interview request and give Kafka a promotion on KC’s staff.

The Eagles are also reportedly interested in Ravens QB coach James Urban and USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Ramsey, Steelers, Kafka

It looks like Jaguars owner Shad Khan was mistaken. Khan, who has seemingly been overly optimistic about the Jalen Ramsey situation ever since his trade demand became public, said earlier this week that he expected Ramsey to play in Week 6. That was apparently news to Ramsey, and his camp soon put out word that he hadn’t committed to playing this week. Indeed, it “would be a major surprise if he plays this week,” tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Ramsey was limited in practice all week, which is obviously a step in the right direction considering he hadn’t practiced until then since his back injury popped up. All indications are that Ramsey hasn’t wavered from his trade demand, although Khan continues to act like nothing is wrong. The Jaguars owner has also said he intends to give the Florida State product a record-breaking extension. Jacksonville has a tough game against the Saints on Sunday, and it looks like Gardner Minshew will be leading them into the game shorthanded.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Speaking of injured cornerbacks, Steelers corner Steven Nelson won’t be playing this week either. Nelson suffered a groin injury during the team’s Week 5 loss to the Ravens, and the team just announced he’s been ruled out. In his place, Pittsburgh will start 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns. Burns has been labeled a bust by many and the Steelers declined his fifth-year option this past offseason, which shows you how they feel about him. Nelson had been playing pretty well alongside Joe Haden, so this is a big downgrade to the Steelers’ secondary as they prepare to take on the Chargers.
  • Add one more young assistant coach to the list of ones to monitor in the Chiefs’ Mike Kafka. Kafka is “very well respected” and is a possible future head coach, tweets Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL radio. Kafka was a former backup quarterback for the Eagles, and he now works under his former head coach Andy Reid. Kafka is Patrick Mahomes‘ position coach and there’s a long history of former Reid assistants landing head jobs, so it certainly makes sense.
  • In case you missed it, the Jets moved on from quarterback Luke Falk after he started the last two weeks for them.

Breer’s Latest: Cardinals, Rosen, Dolphins, Chiefs, Kafka, Bears, Trubisky

The Cardinals finally made the decision to insert Josh Rosen into the game last week, giving the public their first look at the last of the ‘Big Four’ quarterbacks to make an appearance. All four of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Rosen are starters now, and Rosen was the last to see game action. The Cardinals’ plan had reportedly been to continue to start Sam Bradford moving forward, but he played so poorly that he forced Arizona’s hand.

Apparently for Cardinals coaches, Rosen’s command of the huddle in his brief relief appearance last Sunday “was the final piece of the puzzle in deciding to the pull the trigger on the quarterback switch” reports Albert Breer of SI.com. Breer notes that Cardinals sources told him Rosen has “been outstanding of late in practice”, and it sounds like they have full confidence in the rookie signal caller. The tenth overall pick from UCLA will get his first start this Sunday at home against the Seahawks.

Here’s more from Breer’s latest column:

  • The Dolphins have shocked everyone with their 3-0 start, and Breer has identified at least one reason behind the unexpected strong first few weeks. “There was an effort from coach Adam Gase, EVP Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier to get faster” across the board. Breer points to the team’s offseason addition of speedsters Albert Wilson, Mike Gesicki, and Jerome Baker as evidence of the identity change.
  • Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka is a “name to keep an eye on” according to Breer in future coaching searches. Reid apparently assigned Kafka, then a quality control coach, to do one-on-one work with Patrick Mahomes last year, and thinks quite highly of him. Reid has an extensive coaching tree of former assistants, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kafka, a former quarterback under Reid in Philadelphia, become the next one.
  • Scouts are concerned that Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is too quick to tuck and run, and isn’t processing the field, according to Breer. Breer writes that “Trubisky seems to be making a single read, and running if it’s not there”, and that his processing ability had previously been seen as one of his biggest strengths coming out of college.

Coaching Rumors: Giants, Texans, Chiefs

New Giants head coach Pat Shurmur will call his own offensive plays in New York but still plans to hire an offensive coordinator, and Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski is a “strong candidate” for the position, sources tell Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Stefanski, of course, worked under Shurmur in Minnesota, and is now a candidate to take over Shurmur’s old role with the Vikings (where he’d presumably get the opportunity to call games). Minnesota, however, is also considering former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell and Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan for its coordinator job, so if Stefanski isn’t promoted, he could conceivably bolt for New York. Meanwhile, Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley is a “name to watch” for the Giants’ OC position, while ex-Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin could also “be in the mix,” per Vacchiano.

Here’s more on the 2018 coaching carousel:

  • Former Raiders and Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano will join the Texans as a linebackers coach, reports Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Specifically, Pagano is now a senior defensive assistant who will coach outside linebackers, while Bobby King — already on Houston’s staff — will coach inside ‘backers, per Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link). Pagano, the brother of former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, spent five years as the Chargers’ DC before landing with the Raiders in 2017. When Oakland fired Ken Norton Jr. midway through last season, Pagano stepped in as the club’s defensive coordinator.
  • The Chiefs will promote offensive quality coach Mike Kafka to quarterbacks coach, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. Kafka, 30, originally entered the league as a 2010 fourth-round of Andy Reid‘s Eagles and went to play for six other clubs before hanging up his cleats. He coached at Northwestern (his alma mater) before joining Kansas City’s staff in 2017. Reid’s coaching tree is obviously impressive, and the past two men to serve as quarterbacks coach under his employ — Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy — are now head coaches with the Eagles and Bears, respectively.
  • The Titans also have a new quarterbacks coach: former Texans offensive assistant Pat O’Hara, tweets John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who adds ex-Texans defensive assistant Shane Bowen is now Tennessee’s outside linebackers coach. O’Hara interviewed for the Bears’ quarterbacks coach job earlier this year, but Chicago ended up retaining Dave Ragone for the role. Meanwhile, new Titans assistant coach Kerry Coombs will indeed lead defensive backs in Tennessee, meaning he’ll coach the same position group that he did at Ohio State, tweets Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel offered incumbent secondary coach Deshea Townsend a job as Coombs’ assistant (read: a demotion), but Townsend will instead leave the club.
  • The Panthers have hired Air Force defensive coordinator Steve Russ as their new linebackers coach, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Russ will replace Al Holcomb, who followed Steve Wilks to Arizona earlier this week to become the Cardinals’ new defensive coordinator. Although he enjoyed a four-year pro career, the 45-year-old Russ has never coached at the NFL level. He’s been at Air Force since 2012, and previously spent time at Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Ohio. Carolina has also added former Seahawks assistant special teams coach Heath Farwell for the same role, reports Omar Ruiz of NFL.com (Twitter link).