Mike Kafka

Mike Kafka To Call Giants’ Plays In Week 1

Mike Kafka‘s run calling Giants plays will not stop after the preseason. The team will keep its young offensive coordinator in this role to start the year, Brian Daboll said Monday morning.

The Giants hired Daboll after his run as the Bills’ play-caller led to Josh Allen rising to superstar status. Kafka, 35, received an extensive look calling plays this summer, but Daboll retaking the reins would not have been surprising. Kafka, the previous Chiefs quarterbacks coach, taking over to start the regular season marks an unexpected development — at least from the perception when Daboll was hired in January. Offense-oriented HCs generally work as their team’s play-caller.

This will be new territory for Kafka, who was behind Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy in Kansas City. Daboll has called plays for multiple teams before, though his Bills OC work catapulted him into position to become the Giants’ head coach. He will start the season as a CEO-type leader in New York.

Although Daboll and GM Joe Schoen are leading a Giants rebuild, this marks a seminal season for two Dave Gettleman-era cornerstones. Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley are going into contract years. The team’s play-caller will do plenty to determine how New York’s starting quarterback and running back’s seasons go. That responsibility will fall on Kafka, who was Patrick Mahomes‘ position coach during each of the former MVP’s first four seasons. Kafka will be Jones’ fourth play-caller in four seasons, following Pat Shurmur, Jason Garrett and Freddie Kitchens.

Daboll was expected to be the team’s play-caller, but Kafka has been on the rise for a while. Mahomes’ explosive breakout naturally increased interest in his position coach, and ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan opines the Giants used the prospect of calling plays as a way to poach him from Reid’s staff (Twitter link). Reid has regarded Kafka as a future HC, SI.com’s Albert Breer tweets.

Prior to joining Reid’s staff as a quality control assistant in 2017, Kafka was a GA at Northwestern. The ex-Wildcats quarterback spent six years on NFL rosters as a backup QB. Kafka becoming the Giants’ play-caller in earnest will place him on a faster track to receiving HC interviews, though Big Blue’s 2022 offense will determine how quickly that happens.

NFC East Notes: Giants, Mills, Eagles

The Giants continue to entertain the prospect of Brian Daboll not calling plays when the season opens. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka will hold that responsibility in the team’s preseason opener Thursday, via the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy. Working behind Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy as Chiefs quarterbacks coach, Kafka was not in a play-calling position in Kansas City. The former NFL backup QB also was not expected to be a play-calling OC, with Daboll being at the controls for Josh Allen‘s star turn. Daboll has not ruled out calling plays himself, but this matter being uncertain entering the preseason is an interesting development for the team.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Just before their preseason slate, the Commanders are making a staff change. Ron Rivera announced the firing of defensive line coach Sam Mills III. Assistant D-line coach Jeff Zgonina will move up, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post (on Twitter), with assistant DBs coach Brent Vielselmeyer set to help out. Mills, 44, has been with Rivera throughout his coaching career, beginning with the Panthers — the team with which his late father, the recently inducted Hall of Fame linebacker, retired — in 2005 and staying on for Rivera’s nine-season tenure (2011-19). Rivera brought Mills with him from Carolina in 2020, and the latter headed up a defensive line that did plenty to spark the team’s surprise playoff run that year. Rivera (via Jhabvala, on Twitter) described the separation as having to do with this offseason and training camp, rather than previous years’ performance.
  • Darius Slayton has gone from the Giants‘ 2019 and ’20 receiving leader to a trade candidate to a player in danger of being waived. While it should not be ruled out another team trades for the contract-year wide receiver, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes it would be a surprise if Slayton was on the team’s 53-man roster (subscription required). Slayton was not receiving many first-team reps during the offseason, when much of Big Blue’s receiving corps was battling injuries, showed where this could be headed. He has continued to be a second- or third-teamer at camp. If cut, the former fifth-round pick will surely generate waiver-wire interest.
  • Darnay Holmes appears to have seized command of the Giants’ slot cornerback competition. Competing with third-round rookie Cor’Dale Flott, Holmes has taken every first-team rep at the position during camp, Duggan adds. Their configuration could change during the preseason, but the Giants look set to go with Holmes, Adoree’ Jackson and 2021 third-rounder Aaron Robinson at corner.
  • Jeremiah Washburn has been working as an Eagles coach and executive for a bit now, and this rare combination has since come with a promotion. Washburn is now in charge of Philadelphia’s edge defenders, being named the team’s defensive ends and outside linebackers coach. He was previously a senior defensive assistant. Washburn remains the team’s player personnel director. Alex Tanney is also rising up the Eagles’ staff, moving from the quality control level to the team’s assistant quarterbacks coach.
  • Cowboys national scout Drew Fabianich left for a job at Auburn recently, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He will become the SEC program’s general manager and director of football scouting and development. Fabianich was with Dallas for nearly 20 years.

Mike Kafka On Radar To Call Giants’ Plays

When the Giants hired four-year Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, it was expected the play-caller who helped Josh Allen become a top-tier quarterback would run the show for the Giants. The rookie HC might have other plans.

Giants OC Mike Kafka is calling plays at training camp, and while making these scripted calls is quite different from being an in-game play-caller, Daboll said he has not finalized his decision on who will call regular-season plays.

Mike has done a really good job in the spring, which he handled the scripts,” Daboll said, via Giants.com’s Michael Eisen. “And again, we talk on a day-to-day basis on plays and things to install. But he’s been on the headset with Daniel [Jones]. And he’ll be doing that through camp. And as we get closer to it, we’ll sit down and discuss it. … Once we cross that bridge, which we’ve still got a little bit here to go, you guys will know.”

Daboll has a several-year head start on calling plays compared to Kafka, who worked under both Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy in Kansas City. While Kafka, 34, was Patrick Mahomes‘ position coach during each of the superstar’s four years as the Chiefs’ starter, Daboll enjoyed play-calling stints prior to Buffalo. He worked as OC in Cleveland, Miami and Kansas City from 2009-12. Daboll then established himself as a candidate for HC jobs by elevating Allen from a raw talent to a player that has done the most to reinstall the Bills as a Super Bowl contender.

It would surprise if Daboll ceded play-calling reins in his first year on the job. Most OCs that rise to the HC level call plays, and Daboll’s arrival represented a key development for Jones, who is going into what amounts to a make-or-break year as the Giants’ starter. Kafka calling plays for the Giants would also give him a potentially quicker path to the HC level, though it is a bit early to predict when the former NFL QB will be part of a coaching carousel.

NFC East Rumors: Feliciano, Giants, Cowboys, Dickerson

New Giants’ interior offensive lineman Jon Feliciano had some interesting comments about how his time in Buffalo came to an end, according to Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com. After not being utilized in the Bills’ overtime loss to Kansas City, Felicano was quoted saying part of him thought they “got what (they) deserved.”

After riding out his rookie contract as a reserve lineman in Oakland, Feliciano signed a two-year deal to join the Bills. Despite only starting four games for the Raiders as an injury-replacement for Kelechi Osemele, Feliciano earned a starting job playing right guard for all 16 games of his first year in Buffalo. A shoulder injury and torn pectoral muscle delayed the start of his 2020 season, but, upon his return, he started the final nine games of the season, winning the Bills’ 2020 Ed Block Courage Award.

Feliciano signed a three-year extension before the 2021 season and began the year starting six of the first seven games at left guard. A calf injury landed him on injured reserve for a little over a month, but, upon his return, he was not welcomed back to his starting job, with Ike Boettger manning the position. Even when Boettger was unavailable in the playoffs, Buffalo turned to Ryan Bates, who had recorded the first four starts of his career earlier in the season, in lieu of putting Feliciano back in the starting lineup.

With the apparent contempt over the situation in Buffalo, it’s a bit of a surprise to see Feliciano follow his offensive coordinator, now-Giants head coach Brian Daboll, and his offensive line coach, Bobby Johnson, to New York. Johnson has a lot of respect for Feliciano, who he’s coached since their time together began in Oakland. A potential draw might have been that Feliciano will get the opportunity to play center for the Giants after playing at guard dating all the way back to his college days in Miami.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC East, starting with another rumor about Big Blue:

  • Daboll earned his first head coaching job due to his success calling plays in Buffalo. He hired former NFL quarterback Mike Kafka as the Giants’ new offensive coordinator after Kafka served as the Chiefs quarterbacks coach & passing game coordinator the past two years. Kafka has never called plays for an offense, as Chiefs head coach Andy Reid calls plays in Kansas City, but Daboll and the G-Men have provided Kafka the opportunity to try so far in offseason practices, according to Josh Alper of NBC Sports. It’s a show of good faith by Daboll and a low-risk chance, as Daboll can easily take the reins if they don’t believe Kafka is ready for NFL play-calling yet.
  • With the Bronco’s franchise rumored to be selling around $4.5BB, Peter King of NBC Sports was curious about the value of the NFL’s most valuable franchise, the Cowboys. According to Forbes, King says $6.5BB. According to popular NFL business consultant Marc Ganis, King says $8-8.5BB. According to Cowboys’ owner/president/general manager/supreme ruler Jerry Jones, King says over $10BB. Jones quickly added without provocation, “But let me make this very clear, I’ll say it definitively: I will never do it. I will never sell the Cowboys. Ever.” So feel free to put away your checkbooks. Jerry isn’t interested.
  • When the Eagles drafted Landon Dickerson out of Alabama last year, the idea was that the Crimson Tide’s unanimous All-American center and Rimington Trophy winner would eventually serve as the replacement for long-time center Jason Kelce. Well, according to Zach Berman of The Athletic, their plans may have shifted. Dickerson proved too talented to keep off the field and found his first opportunity at playing time at left guard. The chemistry with Dickerson next to tackle Jordan Mailata has the Eagles’ brass excited and eager to keep the tandem next to each other. This plan likely informed their decision to use their second-round pick this year on Nebraska center Cam Jurgens. Jurgens also has the flexibility to play guard and center, but with Dickerson likely to stick at guard, Jurgens becomes the clear front-runner to eventually replace Kelce.

Giants To Hire Mike Kafka As OC

The search for Brian Daboll‘s first offensive coordinator seems to be over. According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, Chiefs quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Mike Kafka is set to be the Giants’ OC (Twitter link). 

Kafka was named by Garafolo as one of three remaining finalists for the role after the Bills (as expected) promoted Ken Dorsey to OC, filling the vacancy left by Daboll going to New York. The other two were reported to be Pep Hamilton, QBs coach/passing game coordinator with the Texans, and Chad O’Shea, the WRs coach/pass game coordinator in Cleveland.

Kafka, 34, was drafted by the Eagles in 2010. After a short playing career, he followed Andy Reid to Kansas City, at first as an offensive quality control coach in 2017. One year later – the season in which Patrick Mahomes took over as the Chiefs’ starting QB – he assumed the role of QBs coach. The enormous success the pair have enjoyed since has generated interest for Kafka to go on to bigger and better things.

It came out two years ago that the Eagles were interested in hiring Kafka as their OC, but he remained in KC. That wasn’t the first time he stayed put, as Garafolo’s colleague James Palmer tweets that “Kafka has been blocked several times in the past”, though he adds that “there was a thought that this offseason that wouldn’t be the case”. Kafka will look to replicate his Chiefs success with Daniel Jones and an offense that struggled mightily in 2021. SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan reports (via Twitter) that Kafka is likely to handle play-calling duties in New York.

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.

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 1-27-21 (7:05pm 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.

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.