for display only
Big Blue Interactive The Corner Forum  
Back to the Corner

Archived Thread

Transcript: Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka

Eric from BBI : Admin : 8/3/2023 1:34 pm
Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka

August 3, 2023

Opening Statement:

Good morning. You guys might ask some questions about Northwestern. I’ll start by, first and foremost, I’m here focused on training camp and the upcoming season. I’ve got nothing but love and respect for Coach (Pat) Fitz(gerald) and I had a great experience at Northwestern. I really did. Many, many lifelong friends to this day. I met my wife there. I started a family there. So, I had a great experience at Northwestern. Thank you.

Q. You have been showing some creative different looks with guys, moving guys around. Are you gravitating to more of a positionless offense to complement (defensive coordinator) Wink’s (Martindale) positionless defense?

A: I think the best way to put it is we're just trying to identify roles for our guys. So, whether that's putting them inside, outside, in different spots. That’s part of the reason why I love our staff; they're creative, and they work together on that kind of stuff. So, it's been good to kind of experiment with it, and then find out which roles those guys fit into best.

Q. So, you’re trying to build up, I guess, or play more matchup football, right?

A: Yeah, we’re just being creative. In this part of training camp, you're going to put guys in different spots and see how they respond and continue to load them up on the installs and work through those details.

Q. How much has play calling changed from when you played to where you are now as the O.C.?

A: I've been in a few different offenses. I don't know if you know much about my story, but I bounced around the league for several years, multiple teams. So, I've seen a few different offenses and each one of them are different. The concepts might be similar, the verbiage and all that stuff might be different. West Coast, numbers, I mean, there's all kinds of different systems out there now. I think when you look around the NFL over the last call it 10 years, you're seeing kind of a transition to more spread out, more up-tempo, you're seeing guys that are athletic in different spots, whether it's in the backfield or on the perimeter. You're seeing these coaches and players adapt to things you're seeing in high school and in college, and that stuff is trickling up into the National Football League. So, it's great, it's fun. I think you're seeing a lot of creative ideas around the league. It’s cool to watch.

Q. We heard when (wide receiver Jalin) Hyatt was drafted, ‘Speed, speed,’ and the whole thing with the route tree and all that stuff. What have you seen from him so far? Clearly, his speed seems to show up almost every day in training camp.

A: He's doing a nice job. He's doing a nice job in the in the classroom, studying, prepping, making sure he's prepared for practice. On the field, he’s working, and working through all the fundamentals and techniques that we want him to work through. Obviously, he's made a couple plays, and he's got to just take it day by day. I think that's where, not only just him, but the entire offense can take that approach.

Q. His speed, you gauge it and clock it and everything, but is it blatant, you see it?

A: Yeah, that was definitely one of the strengths of his coming out of college, something that we targeted.

Q. (Wide receiver) Isaiah Hodgins kind of proved to be a quick study last year. You’re smiling, so I like that you agree. Where have you seen him improve during this camp and really grow into what you want him to be?

A: Yeah, Isaiah’s a true professional. He comes to work every day, has his routine, goes through the process of being a pro, brings young guys along with him as well. So, he's always trying to coach them up and give them his experiences. Being in this offense for several years now, you can see his comfortability in it and his understanding of it. So, he's continuing to grow. Just like everybody, I think he's just working on those fundamentals that we talk about, and he's not going to shy away from the work, which is awesome as a coach.

Q. You nearly became an NFL coach this past offseason. Would you have interest in being a college head coach if that opportunity arose or are you focused just on NFL?

A: I’m just focused on training camp, really, today.

Q. What would you say if Northwestern did come to you, because obviously that’s going to hang out there for a little while here?

A: I’d say that I’m just focused on today.

Q. What can you tell us about the offensive line? I know you just had the one padded practice, but you have different guys competing for left guard, you have some competition at center there. What have you seen from that group, and has anybody kind of really jumped out at you as far as a combination goes?

A: Yeah, the combination, the depth chart and all that stuff, I'm sure everyone's looking at that. We have a plan, so we're working through all those spots, not just at the O-line, receiver, I mean, there's a lot of groups that we're working through and how to put people in different spots. That's just part of the constant evaluation process for us.

Q. Do you want to try to avoid having a rotation if you can? Would you rather just have five guys straight through, or is a rotation acceptable?

A: I don’t know if you want to box yourself in at this point in training camp or a week in. I think we just want to go through our evaluation process and let it declare itself.

Q. When you came to camp, the big question mark was would (running back) Saquon (Barkley) be here? Did you have Plan A and Plan B, or how did you approach that?

A: I think those are all things that we talked about and prepped for, because you're building the practice plans and the practice scripts and all that. So, yeah, those are things we talked about, but that never really came to fruition.

Q. What is the balance between the competition with Wink every day and obviously the teamwork with him? Because he wants the upper hand, you want the upper hand.

A: It's a competitive camp. That’s how it should be, but me and Wink have a great dialogue about the practice plan and certain things that he wants to see, certain things that I want to see. So, we have a good working relationship and make sure that whatever we're doing, we’re putting the players in the best position for (limiting) injuries and so that we can get evaluations as well. So, that's how we've been handling it.

Q. What makes his style of defense so difficult to go against?

A. Yeah, it's multiple. I think we mentioned earlier how they have a positionless defense. It's real and they can mix and match a lot of different players. Again, this defense is a competitive group. They’ve got a lot of speed. They've got smart players. So, they can be flexible and move guys inside, outside, and bring pressure from multiple sides. I mean, you guys know that now. Wink and the coaching staff do a nice job over there.

Q. How beneficial is it for (center) John Michael (Schmitz Jr.) to have to face that defense every day, and how have you seen him handle the mental aspect of it?

A: Yeah, we had a little bit of that last year, where you're seeing a lot of those pressure looks probably way more than you probably see throughout the remainder of the season. So, you kind of bank all that, all those looks, and you're able to kind of pull from that throughout the season, ‘Oh, hey, remember this look from training camp?’ You see those looks, there's a lot going on, so, you're able to process it quicker and quicker and quicker at full speed. Those guys are able to see it; you’re not just looking at a card or in a walkthrough setting. You're seeing it full speed, and you're watching the guys react and problem solve.

Q. Saquon said this spring that he would like to be used more as a receiver. He said that kind of was the plan last year, but it changed. Ideally, would you like to throw him the ball more? Would that open things up more in your offense?

A: I think it's too early to tell right now. I think we're going through that; we're practicing all kinds of things with people at every position. So, we're just going to go through that process, and when the season comes, it comes. Right now, we're just focused on today and putting our guys in a good spot to have a good practice today.

Q. This is your second year with (quarterback) Daniel (Jones). Where have you seen him improve from where he was a year ago?

A: Year two is always just a little bit easier for everybody, especially when you start brand new with a whole staff and you're getting to understand everybody, and you're looking to build trust and build relationships. Year one was kind of that first part of the process. Working into year two, there's a lot more comfort, there's a lot more familiarity. I think everyone has an understanding of the strengths and the weaknesses of not only the scheme, but the players and how we're coaching it and how we're teaching it, how we're running it. So, year two is always easier. I mean, even for myself, same thing, just another year under my belt being with DJ (quarterback Daniel Jones) and being with the offensive line, the group and the offense and the whole staff. So, everything is just a little bit more smooth, but we’ve still got to put in the work, and we’ve still got to go through the process.

Q. Is there anything you've specifically seen him improve on that he wasn’t able to do physically or mentally last year?

A: Yeah, I would just probably speak on just his comfort in the offense. I think he's able to problem solve faster, I'm able to problem solve faster with him and we can work together and speak that same language just a little bit quicker.

Back to the Corner