MOBILE, Ala. — Mike Kafka is staying in Kansas City.
The Chiefs quarterbacks coach will not interview with the Eagles for their offensive coordinator vacancy and has opted to stay on Andy Reid’s staff for another year, NFL sources said.
The Eagles hadn’t made a formal request to meet with Kafka, but they had learned through various channels that the Chiefs were prepared to block him from interviewing, sources said. Reid has a long history of shielding his assistants dating back to his tenure with the Eagles.
While a jump from quarterbacks coach to a coordinator would represent a promotion for Kafka, NFL teams aren’t restricted from blocking assistants unless they are vying for a head-coaching job. Kafka wouldn’t likely have the opportunity to call plays even if he had interest in the Eagles’ position.
Head coach Doug Pederson is expected to retain those responsibilities, even though it remains one of the impediments to hiring an ideal candidate. That doesn’t mean the Eagles can’t find a suitable replacement for Mike Groh, who was fired after two years as coordinator. But most coordinators, budding or experienced, would want to call plays immediately.
The 32-year-old Kafka has coached in the NFL for just three seasons and only recently became quarterbacks coach. But he has drawn attention from around the league for his work with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes over the last two seasons. Kafka is also, in essence, Kansas City’s passing-game coordinator.
The Eagles are entering their third week since Groh’s departure. They have kept the process relatively quiet but have been linked to names such as Jim Caldwell, Kevin O’Connell, James Urban, and Graham Harrell.
Caldwell, 65, was hired by the Dolphins as a senior assistant last year but he took a year off to address his health. The former Colts and Lions coach was released from his contract Monday and is a free agent. O’Connell, who was last with the Redskins, was hired by the Rams. Urban interviewed with the Eagles but will stay in Baltimore, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last week.
And Harrell, who had met with the Eagles Friday, decided Monday to remain with Southern Cal. He has been the only college-level coach to reportedly interview. The team’s interest in Harrell, who runs the pass-happy “Air Raid” system, at least suggests that Pederson and company are looking outside the West Coast Offense box.
With NFL defensive coordinators adept at catching up to evolving offenses, the Eagles might need to bring in someone from the outside with different ideas and perspectives. The unit ranked eighth in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) rankings in 2017. But it finished 16th and 14th, respectively, over the last two seasons.
Assisting Pederson with scheme, game planning, and play-calling are some of the chief responsibilities for a coordinator, but the Eagles are also looking for someone who will have a rapport with Carson Wentz. The 27-year-old quarterback has been intimately involved in game planning.
Wentz set a franchise record for passing yards in 2019, but it took several months before he found his groove. Internally, many had credited backup quarterback Josh McCown with Wentz’s late-season progress.
McCown, who had relieved Wentz after he left the Eagles’ 17-9 playoff loss to the Seahawks with a concussion, hasn’t given an indication as to whether he plans on retiring. But the 40-year old could be a possible choice to stay on with the Eagles in some capacity, if not coordinator.
Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley and quarterbacks coach Press Taylor have more experience, but the Eagles might not be inclined to promote from within after the Groh failure. Staley interviewed two years ago but was passed over as both pass-game coordinator (Groh) and run-game coordinator (offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland).
Kafka was selected out of Northwestern by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. The reserve quarterback spent two years in Philadelphia and would bounce around the league for the next four years before retiring. He returned to Northwestern as a graduate assistant in 2016 before being reunited with Reid.