Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka
August 8, 2022
Q: Explain how like the play calling processes works as far as like (Head Coach) Brian (Daboll) says you’re the one calling them during practice, but just the process to get to that point – the meetings and onto the field?
A: Yeah, it’s been very collaborative as far as between myself and the staff, the offensive staff and Dabs, working together on what we want our players to do, what we want to do in the run game, the pass game, movement, screens, play action. And it’s been really cool that way and really collaborative, and it’s been fun.
Q: Do you feel like Thursday in the preseason is a little bit of a tryout for you?
A: You know, I look at it as an opportunity. An opportunity not only for myself, but for the players. Everyone out there is, those guys are, you know, everyone on there is working hard to make the team and show what they can do and show that they can build themselves a role. So, I’m looking to go out and do my job to the best of my ability and put the guys in the best position to be successful and show what they can do.
Q: What have you learned about play calling from the camp this year? I assume it’s the most you’ve called plays or the longest you have.
A: Yeah, it’s been great learning experiences between the situations we call in practice, and Dabs does a great job of mixing those type of things in throughout practice, whether it be in the red zone, two-minute, backed up, short yardage. We’ve thrown so many situations at not only just the coaches and play callers but also at the players. And I’m really proud of how they’ve responded to those things.
Q: How much of being a former quarterback is just like being an offense coordinator?
A: Yeah, I definitely think some feel to it. There’s some correlation. Because as a quarterback, you’re playing the game kind of the same way through the eyes of a coordinator. And you go to understand what his intent is as a play caller and why he’s calling a certain play. And I think that helps as you get more familiar with the play caller and the quarterback. Once they get on the same page, I think that’s where you really see things that are special.
Q: How’s the – what’s the biggest adjustment been for play calling-wise for you? Having never done it, obviously, you haven’t done it in a game yet. Running through the spring and summer, what’s been the biggest adjustment?
A: It’s been fun. I’d say the biggest thing right now if just the coach to quarterback communicator. That’s probably one of the biggest things that we’ve talked about. Just making sure I can get them the play fast, clearly. You know sometimes I get excited and amped up and might be a little too high with my volume. But I think that’s probably been the biggest thing right now.
Q: Does he say that? Is he like, ‘Too loud’?
A: No, I’m probably just screaming it too fast, and then all of a sudden it kind of comes out a little too muddled.
Q: Is there a little bit of a dichotomy? As Tom was just saying, it’s kind of like an audition for you as a play caller and you have to take the opportunity. But we know preseason football, the goal is to be as vanilla as possible and not show anything. So how do you impress without giving away too much?
A: Yeah. There’s a balance. Following Dabs’ philosophy on what he wants to do on offense and put our guys in a good position to go make plays and show what they can do – we’re going to follow that. And I think that’s been the plan all along.
Q: How much of your time do you spend wondering what Brian wants called? And how much of you is saying, ‘No, I’m my own coach. It’s what I want,’? Is he giving you that freedom to navigate that?
A: We talk all the time about those type of things and how we want to run things. But when you’re in a training camp mode, it’s evaluation. You’re evaluating the players; you’re evaluating the scheme. So, there’s a balance of that, but again, me and Dabs talk all the time about how we want to attack certain defenses. How we want to attack certain teams. How we want to use our players. So, that’s been an open conversation since the day I got here.
Q: Mike, as far as that open conversation, it’s been a couple months since you started putting that offense together. And Dabs told us you wanted it to be a collaborate idea. So, for you, what was that experience like pulling from your knowledge to have a guy who has already had a successful system? Are you guys putting things in that maybe you’ve done in the past that he didn’t know?
A: Yeah, it was super exciting. I think Dabs has been around for a long time, 20 plus years in the league, so to be able to pull from his experiences. Pull from the experiences where I was from, that’s been awesome. There’s multiple way to run certain schemes. There’s multiple way to teach it. Certain schemes, certain ways. So, we’re mixing; we’re kind of mixing and matching on certain ideas. But that’s been the fun part. Because we’re figuring out. We’re trying to solve problems and make sure all our issues are covered. I love all the conversations we’ve had with our staff and with Dabs.
Q: Can you give an example of something that maybe you did one way?
A: I don’t want to go into too much detail. But, in the protection game, there’s certain things that I’ve done in the past and certain things that they’ve done in their past that we’ve meld together and made it make sense for the quarterback. Because at the end of the day, as long as him and the O-line are on the same page, I think we’ll be fine. So, there’s definitely a lot of communication between the guys that have ideas and then the actual execution of it and making sure it’s simple and clear and has rules that can cover a wide spectrum of fronts and coverages and pressure. So, you try to cover all your bases but also make it simple and also make it beneficial to our players.
Q: Mike, after seven months, do you know what you have? Or will the preseason, or what happens on the field show you what you have?
A: I think every day you’re going to evaluate. I mean throughout the entire season, today’s no different. When we get to the preseason game, it amps up another level. And you’re playing against not the same guys that you’ve been seeing for the last few months. So, it’s definitely a different level of intensity. We’ve got an away game coming up. So, all those things are going to be new for some of our young guys and some of the guys we’re introducing to the offense. So, I think that’s going to be a good challenge for us. Right, we’ll have some opportunity to look at that.
Q: How is (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) progressing? This is a whole new offense for him. Receivers talked about some freedom route choices depending on defense. Obviously, that takes a lot of communication with the quarterback. How is he progressing up to this point as far as communication-wise with his receivers?
A: I think over the last, probably, week to ten days, I think that communication really has gotten a lot better. In the meeting rooms, those guys are getting a lot more vocal. Not just the quarterbacks, but the receivers making sure that, ‘Hey Daniel. Okay if it’s – I saw it this way.’ And then vice versa. Daniel saying, ‘I think you should hit it like this, or show me this body language.’ So, I think over the last week, week and a half, things have really gotten a lot better because they’re opening up their lines of communication. That’s what we’re stressing to these guys: Let’s talk. Not just receivers and quarterbacks, but O-line. Everyone’s got to get on the same page.
Q: How is he doing overall? Because we’ve seen incomplete passes and say, ‘Okay he missed that throw,’ Maybe it might not be that. It might be that at times, I’m sure. How do you assess what you’ve seen so far in regard to performance?
A: I think Daniel’s doing a phenomenal job. He’s working. He’s operating the offense. I like what he’s doing as far as being a leader and trying to get these guys up and push the tempo of the offense. So, I like where Daniel’s at.
Q: When you look at (Wide Receiver) Wan’Dale (Robinson) and (Offensive Tackle) Evan (Neal), two guys who are rookies who are obviously going to play a big role, do you have to constantly look at them as rookies and think they might be more advanced where you can give them a little bit more because they are going to be the guys that you use?
A: There’s definitely a balance. You definitely want to be careful with the young guys, but we’re still going to continue to run our offense and put them in positions so they can be successful. But you got to have a balance and understand that. They don’t have a lot of ball as professional players, so we try and make sure we spend extra time with them in the meeting room and spend extra time with them on the field and show them certain looks on tape. So, you kind of go through that learning process and learning progression with those guys and understand, like okay, they haven’t seen everything yet. But you can slowly build their library overtime.
Q: Are they a little more developed as rookies than maybe some rookies?
A: I think they’re right on schedule.
Q: Where are you guys – you talk about evaluating, you talk about melding different offensive systems – where are you guys in terms of putting together the offense you want to have?
A: I think we’re right on schedule. I think we’re right where we want to be. I think we’re still continuing to figure out some schemes that we’re better at and things that we want to work on – whether it’s run or pass game. So, I say we’re right on schedule. I like where the guys are at. We got to put together a good day of work today, and then we’ll continue to look forward.
Q: When you guys drafted Wan’Dale, there was the outside thought – analyst, media, fans – is he too similar to (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney)? Now that you’ve had them, how different are they? How confident are you that you can play them both on the field the same time?
A: I’m not big on comparisons, but I think they both have a unique skillset. On the perimeter in space, I think that’s where they’re the most dynamic. So, I think that’s where those guys have done a good job, again, of trying to learn the offense, where they fit in the scheme. And I think the coaches are doing a good job, too, of trying to figure out how they fit into our offense and where they fit. And that’s super important as we keep on going and moving forward.
Q: When did the light go off for you in terms of coaching? And having had the experience of working with Andy Reid a long time, how fortunate do you feel that you have been able to learn at the feet of a master like that.
A: The light really went off for me when I was a graduate assistant at Northwestern. As soon as I got finished playing, (Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald) Coach Fitz had an opportunity to be a GA there, so he said, ‘Hey. Come out. Try it out. See if you want to get into coaching.’ And it was great, my alma mater. I was really familiar with the staff and coaches there and how they want to run the team. Coach Fitz runs the team. So, first week – pretty much within the first three days really – I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do. Loved every minute of it. You kind of see behind the curtain a little bit what the coaches have to go through to get ready for just a practice: scripting and carding and putting together the practice plans, and practice installs. And for me as a player, like being the third, second and third quarterback for most of my career – all of my career – that was something that was easy for me. Like, I had to do those type of things to kind of be in the back of the room behind the curtain, kind of watching, and trying to help out any way that I can to try to stick on the team. So, when I got into coaching it was like, ‘This is awesome. This is fun. This is what I love to do.’ So, I think that’s where it really set myself up for, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’ And now, having the opportunity to be with Coach Fitz at my alma mater, and having the opportunity to come back with (Chiefs Head) Coach (Andy) Reid and be with his staff, who again I had a lot a familiarity with, and with the offense, that was an awesome experience and one I’m forever grateful for.
Q: When it comes to the challenge of facing (Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale) Wink’s defense, we’ve heard from the players in practice all the time that when you get in the situation when you guys start getting competitive, you’re not necessarily calling plays against what you’re anticipating from Wink. But when you hit a screen like that on Friday night, it’s almost like, do you look at it and say, ‘We’d use more than that if we’re facing this defense,’? How much is it frustrating as you’re trying to get things done?
A: You know, again, we’re putting in our offense. We’re trying to follow the practice plan that we’ve had that we set all the way in June. Those things are going to happen, and that’s why Wink is who he is. He brings a lot of pressure, and he’s multiple in those type of ways. But that’s been a good challenge for our offense, but again, I think there’s plays that we’ve had throughout training camp and in the scrimmage that look pretty good. We got him on one of them; they got us on one. That’s part of competing. That’s why I love about this team right now is everyone’s competing. Everyone’s trying to get better. They might get you one time. They might get us one time, but we’re all on the same team. We’re all working toward the same goal.
Q: Kind of building off that, Mike, did you see pass protection issues the other night in that scrimmage that concerned you, number one? How would you evaluate the state of your offensive line overall at this point?
A: I think the offensive line, one goal we have for them is setting the depth and width of the pocket. I thought they did that overall. There were a couple miscommunications that I think we can clean up, and again, because Wink’s multiple, and that’s the best thing. That’s our best challenge that we’ve had all training camp was going up against Wink. And that’s been a great test for not only the communication of the quarterback and the offensive line, but with our running backs, with our tight ends involved in protections. That’s been an awesome challenge for us. Really, that’s helped us. Even though that might not be exactly clean every single time, that’s going to help us down the road in the long term, which is what I’m really excited about. So, I think, you know, you got to, you have to be able to evaluate this scheme – the integrity of the scheme and protection – and make sure that we’re not just completely disregarding that part. We go back as coaches, and we look at that and we make sure we can have rules and answers for our guys so that if those things pop up, we can go and execute.