Mike Kafka had a good thing going with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator for a team with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. The Chiefs were in the Super Bowl twice, winning once, and made the playoffs all five seasons Kafka was there. He was learning under offensive mastermind Andy Reid.
So, why did the 34-year-old Kakfa leave the Chiefs for the New York Giants? That is a team with five straight double-digit loss seasons. The Giants have a new GM. A new head coach with an offensive background who will have a big say in the offensive design and might call the plays.
So, why, Mike? Why were the Giants the right step on a career path that began as a rarely used backup quarterback who was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010?
“Yes,” Kafka said, admitting it was not easy to leave the Chiefs. “It was an awesome experience.
“But this opportunity was something that was special to me and my family. It wasn’t just something I took on a whim. I wasn’t just going to go to any team. It had to be built the right way with the people, the Mara family, Dabes, Joe (Schoen), the players that we had here. So it was all that encompassed.”
Still, though, while he will be offensive coordinator this will not be entirely Kafka’s system. He might not even be the play-caller.
“Right now in Phase 3, we’re just taking it kind of day by day,” Kafka said. “I’m calling the plays for the quarterbacks in practice, and then we’ll let Dabs evaluate that, and he has every right to evaluate how he wants to handle that.”
Kafka admitted that “of course” he would like to be the play caller.
“I think every offensive coordinator aspires to call plays, so yes,” Kafka said.
For now, though, Daboll, Kafka and the rest of the offensive coaching staff are going about melding what they have learned into a system that tries to fit Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney, Wan’Dale Robinson and the rest of the Giants’ offensive personnel.
“We’re working through that right now. I’d say Mike has contributed very positive in terms of additions and plays. So have the other coaches. Mike Groh has been around some different spots, and DeAndre (Smith) is coming from college and has some unique things, and Bisch (Andy Bischoff) was at Baltimore,” Daboll said. “We’re trying to put together a package that we think our players do best. That’s what we’re trying to find out out here. Obviously there’s no pads, so we’re still a work in progress. But I said it last week, Mike is a really smart guy. He’s done a really good job of leading that room as the offensive coordinator and in the meetings and out here on the practice field, and we’re lucky to have him.”
The success of the Kansas City offense, of course, played a role in Kafka landing with the Giants.
“I would say that we never worked together or had a close relationship but had a lot of respect for what he did with Patrick (Mahomes) and obviously the system they used at Kansas City was an explosive system, spread the field, get your playmakers in space, and that’s the type of offense that I subscribe to,” Daboll said. “He’s had a lot of success where he’s come from. We’ve done some stuff there where I came from. But at the end of the day none of that really matters. We’ve got to figure out who our guys do best, and if that’s a change in philosophy based on what we have or don’t have, that’s what we’ve got to do as a staff.”
Kafka called the process of trying to bring together ideas from highly successful, but different, offensive systems has been “interesting.”
“So when I was in New England [as a player] with him, obviously the grassroots of it are kind of built from that system, but it’s evolved so much since that time,” Kafka said. “Really when I came in here, we were kind of starting to talk about the offense and realized how similar it really was to when we were in Kansas City. Some of the verbiage is different, but that has been a great process. We understand the concepts, we understand how we want to get it done, now it’s just about communicating it and tightening it up and making it simple for the players.”