HOUSTON – New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka impressed the Texans’ search committee during his virtual interview Sunday with chairman and CEO Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio.
Now, they’ll meet with him in-person.
Kafka, 35, is scheduled to conduct a second interview with the AFC South franchise Wednesday in Houston, according to a league source.
Kafka put business first, prioritizing his preparations for the Giants playoff game, a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, delaying his initial interview requests for NFL head coaching vacancies. Then, he did two interviews Sunday with the Texans and Indianapolis Colts via Zoom.
The Giants’ offensive coordinator formulated strong game plans for quarterback Daniel Jones, who had a resurgent season before a loss to the Eagles.
A former NFL and Northwestern quarterback, Kafka follows interviews with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, one of their top candidates for the vacancy after firing Lovie Smith following a 3-13-1 season, Los Angeles Rams assistant head coach and tight ends coach Thomas Brown, former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, who’s also expected to get a second interview, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who has interviewed three times for the job over the past two hiring cycles, Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who withdrew his name from head coaching searches and remained with his current team on a lucrative augmented contract.
With the emphasis on offensive coaches, Kafka is an intriguing candidate for teams with how he’s engineered a turnaround of the Giants offense with a balance between running back Saquon Barkley and an improved Jones while calling the plays and working in tandem with Daboll.
Kafka is in the mold of a younger offensive coach that’s been popular in recent hiring cycles, including the Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Sirianni.
He’s known for his creativity.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid hired Kakfa in 2017 as he left Northwestern. A six-year backup quarterback in the NFL, Kakfa worked closely with Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Hired initially as an offensive quality control coach, Kakfa worked with Mahomes as he won an MVP award. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach, then passing game coordinator.
Now, Kafka runs the Giants’ offense that succeeds despite a lack of stellar playmakers at wide receiver.
The Giants rank 15th in total offense after finishing 31st in scoring and total offense in 2021. The Giants won their first playoff game in 11 years when they defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC wild-card round.
A Chicago native and former St. Rita standout, Kakfa played safety and wide receiver in high school before emerging as a standout as a senior quarterback and earning a scholarship to nearby Northwestern where he played for Pat Fitzgerald and set passing records and was a team captain.
In the Outback Bowl, he passed for 532 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions in an overtime loss.
He then played for the Eagles, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals before retiring and entering the coaching profession. He played in four games, all in 2011 for the Eagles and completed 11 of 16 passes for 107 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Kakfa has obviously proven to be better at teaching the position than playing quarterback, but his background as a pro quarterback is nonetheless invaluable. A backup quarterback has to have a lot of knowledge.
Under Kafka’s direction, Jones’ development has been eye-catching to teams.
“Every day, Daniel, he comes to work,” Kakfka said. “Whether it’s in the classroom, and then on the field, he’s working his butt off, too. It’s great for him; he’s always looking for ways to improve, no matter what day it is. Whether it’s future, past, or whatever, he’s always looking for ways to improve his game.”
The Texans are looking for someone who’s a good teacher with people skills, an understanding of personnel and how to best utilize those players, a strong grasp of the big picture.
Perhaps Kakfa can fit that bill.
‘In the end, it’s a leadership position,” Caserio said when asked what’s the ideal for a successful coaching candidate after coach Lovie Smith was fired following a 3-13-1 season. “The head coach’s responsibility is to consistently, continually message the players, create belief, create a vision for the team, work in concert with as many people that are in the building. My role is a supplementary role to be as big and as much of a resource as possible. It has to be a collaborative effort, and it will be a collaborative effort.
“Everybody has different strengths, everybody has qualities, everybody has areas that they’re more accomplished than others. In the end, we have to figure out what’s the best thing for the Houston Texans at this present time, what’s the best for our situation, what’s the best for our building, what’s the best for our coaches, what’s the best for our players.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com