Mike Kafka is still calling plays for the New York Giants, after the offensive coordinator disclosed the “process hasn’t changed” from last season.
Kafka’s role came into question after head coach Brian Daboll appeared to take control during Week 2’s 31-28 win over the Arizona Cardinals. However, Kafka cleared things up, per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan: “Kafka says they remain in constant conversation throughout games and Daboll was likely trying to cover his face with the call sheet so it couldn’t be seen what he was saying.”
It was Kafka who called the plays during 2022, a banner year for quarterback Daniel Jones. Things look a lot different three games into this season, though, and Kafka ought to think twice about taking primary responsibility for how the Giants are performing on offense in 2023.
Kafka Has Taken Pressure Upon Himself
Some, including Dan Duggan of The Athletic, believe Kafka never ceded authority to Daboll, despite the Giants’ struggles moving the ball early this season.
While that may be true, Kafka’s moment of clarity has placed the coordinator firmly in line to take the brunt of criticism for his unit’s struggles. Those struggles have been obvious, starting with the 40-0 shutout defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1.
That was followed by the Giants being blanked in the first half against the Cards. Even though Jones, running back Saquon Barkley and rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt rallied the Giants in the desert, the improvement didn’t even last as long as Week 3’s 30-12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
In total, Kafka’s offense ranks 30th in points and 24th in yards, according to Pro Football Reference. Worse still, the Giants are still struggling to generate big plays through the air, producing a mere six completions of 20-plus yards.
Those numbers reveal why the Giants have struggled to move the ball, but they don’t explain the stark difference between the second half in Arizona compared to 10 other quarters of ineptitude.
Kafka tried to answer what was so different against the Cardinals. He told reporters how the Giants “let it happen downfield,” per GiantsTV, probably referring to the 58-yard catch by Hyatt that “kind of sparked something.”
What’s significant about Kafka’s answer is his explanation of what the Giants did well in Arizona as being “things that, you know, we were building on, we’re working on all week.”
The implication here is the way the Giants executed against the Cardinals was all part of a plan Kafka is designing each week. This leaves the lingering question, why hasn’t the plan worked anywhere else than State Farm Stadium?
Offense Hampered by Injuries
Kafka called a small-ball passing game a season ago, but that was supposed to change this year after the team gave Jones and his OC a collection of new, more dynamic targets. So far, the results have been less than inspiring, although Kafka could point to some mitigating factors.
Kafka’s hands have been tied somewhat by being without key figures at both the skill positions and in the trenches. Barkley missed the game against the 49ers with an ankle injury, while the offensive line has been decimated.
Weak play along the line has led to Jones being sacked 12 times. It’s also prevented Kafka from calling more expansive concepts in the passing game.
Selecting Hyatt in the third round of the 2023 NFL draft, after trading for Pro-Bowl tight end Darren Waller, was supposed to open up the offense. Instead, Kafka hasn’t been able to get Jones and Waller on the same page often enough.
Calling the right plays to help build that rapport should be Kafka’s priority in Seattle.