The Chiefs are expected to announce the promotion of Mike Kafka to coach their quarterbacks in the near future, a source told The Star on Friday.
The promotion of Kafka, who served as an offensive quality-control coach for the Chiefs last season, will provide a sense of continuity for a quarterback room that has faced some turnover recently. Assistant head coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy — who both had hands-on roles with the quarterbacks during the team’s weekly game-planning preparations — departed the club in recent weeks.
Childress, 61, is expected to retire while Nagy, 39, left to become the head coach of the Chicago Bears.
More changes in the quarterback room could be coming, too. Because while the Chiefs still have 22-year-old Patrick Mahomes — who was impressive in limited action in 2017 — in the mix, starting quarterback Alex Smith is entering the final year of his contract, while No. 3 quarterback Tyler Bray is slated to become a free agent in March.
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Whether Smith or Mahomes is the starting quarterback in 2018, Kafka is someone with whom both are accustomed to working.
Smith told The Star at the Pro Bowl on Friday that Kafka spent a lot of time as the Chiefs’ de facto quarterback coach last season, since Nagy — who officially held the title — was also busy with his offensive coordinator duties.
“He was doing a bunch of that last year,” Smith said. “He knows the system well, works well with all of us, really smart.
“As the coordinator, Nags had a lot of duties and was all over the place, so anytime he had stuff to do, Kafka would step in and run the meeting — he’d do this (or that). So he was already doing quite a bit with us, kind of substituting here or there. So I think it’s a natural transition.”
A former quarterback who was a fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles (and coach Andy Reid) in 2010, Kafka spent two seasons in Philly before stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals through the 2015 season.
Kafka then spent the 2016 season as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Northwestern, before being hired by the Chiefs in his current role last February.
“Mike Kafka is an absolute rising star in this profession,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald tweeted about Kafka in mid-January. “Proud of the player he was and the man he is, and excited for what’s ahead in the future!”
Kafka isn’t the only Chiefs assistant in line for a promotion. Assistant defensive line coach Mike Smith is also expected to receive a bump to a yet-to-be-finalized position on the staff, a source told The Star,
Smith, 36, has spent the last two seasons with the Chiefs in his current role after he was hired away from Texas Tech, where he spent 2013 to 2015 as co-defensive coordinator and defensive line and linebackers coach.
Smith, a former NFL linebacker who played for the Baltimore Ravens from 2005 to 2008, has history with Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, as Smith served as a linebackers coach under Sutton with the New York Jets from 2011 to 2012.
The promotions of each man adds to the list of staff adjustments the Chiefs have made since the end of the season. On Jan. 10, they promoted running backs coach Eric Bieniemy to offensive coordinator to replace Nagy, and on Jan. 11, they hired Deland McCullough away from Southern California to replace Bieniemy as running backs coach. And on Jan. 15, they hired Jay Valai to be a defensive quality control coach.