Mike Kafka earned plenty of plaudits in 2022 but the New York Giants will struggle to keep their sought-after offensive coordinator because the Houston Texans are set to interview him again for their own vacant position head-coaching position.
Kafka is ready for another round of talks to replace Lovie Smith, according to ESPN’s Field Yates:
Interest intensifying in Kafka is bad news for the Giants, who may find it tougher to replace the 35-year-old than defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale. The latter has also been a hot name among teams looking for new head coaches.
Houston Texans a Worthy Challenge for Kafka
The Texans represent the toughest job available. At least on paper. They are coming off a 3-13-1 season, but there’s enough talent and ammunition to make rebuilding the roster an appealing prospect for Kafka.
Principally, he’d get to use the second-overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft to select a potential bluechip starter capable of turning the franchise around. The pick puts the Texans firmly in the mix to take one of the top two quarterbacks in this year’s class, Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.
Working with a franchise-level signal-caller might appeal to Kafka, who came to the Giants’ attention for his work as Patrick Mahomes’ position coach with the Kansas City Chiefs. Alternatively, Kafka could trust Davis Mills to rebound.
Mills flashed promise as a rookie, but threw 17 interceptions this season. Worryingly, many of those picks were throws not “deemed to be turnover-worthy” by Pro Football Focus, according to Ian Hartitz:
Kafka could firm up his credentials as a QB whisperer by improving Mills’ game the way he did for Daniel Jones with the Giants. Jones went from likely draft bust to a 10-win starter on Kafka’s watch thanks to a career-best 3,205 yards, 6.8 yards per attempt and 92.5 QB rating.
A similar reclamation project would quickly make the Texans viable in a weak AFC South won by the 9-8 Jacksonville Jaguars this season. The Jags are on the rise with shrewd head coach Doug Pederson, but the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts appear stuck in reverse.
Kafka, along with Martindale, interviewed with the Colts, per Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports. The Giants are well placed to replace the latter if necessary, but it’s a different story with Kafka.
Mike Kafka’s Exit Would Give Giants a Tricky Decision
Giants’ head coach Brian Daboll might have fingers crossed Evero gets the job because replacing Kafka could prove tricky. Daboll chose Kafka over two other candidates, Pep Hamilton and Cleveland Browns’ wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea, both of whom “could be available” again, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post.
The problem is neither Hamilton nor O’Shea worked with the Giants this season. Daboll needs continuity to maintain what worked in 2022. Especially if general manager Joe Schoen brings back free agents quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.
Even if Schoen can’t make it work for Jones and Barkley, Daboll would surely want some scheme carry over to keep the offense easy to learn for their replacements.
That’s how things would work if Martindale took his blitz-heavy gameplans into his first head-coaching job. His departure could be offset by promoting one of his two primary assistants, with Dunleavy naming outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins and secondary boss Jerome Henderson as the best in-house candidates to keep running the Giants’ defense Martindale’s way.
Martindale has established a system that can run without him, but the Giants are only just scratching the surface of what Kafka can achieve. He crafted a credible, creative attack around Jones and Barkley, despite a lack of elite talent at wide receiver, tight end and along the interior of the offensive line.
Daboll’s best-case scenario is for the Giants to reap the benefits of Kafka calling the plays for a second season with better options at his disposal.