It’s not accurate to call Mike Kafka the personal coach for Patrick Mahomes. After all, Kafka has worked with all of the Chiefs quarterbacks who have been on the roster in his two seasons with the team.
But Mahomes is the only current quarterback who has been with the Chiefs both years, and with veteran Alex Smith needing little tutoring last season, Kafka was able to shower Mahomes with additional attention. They were often seen after practice working together.
With a few more days of practices and three minicamp workouts later this month before training camp begins in July, Kafka has seen payoff from the extra work.
“He’s made consistent improvement every single day and that’s what we’re looking for,” Kafka said of Mahomes. “He’s put in a ton of work. We’re working to fine-tune every single aspect of playing the quarterback position.”
Expectations for Mahomes are unlike anything a Chiefs quarterback has encountered since perhaps the days of Joe Montana. The difference is, Montana had established himself as one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks when he arrived in Kansas City.
Mahomes has one NFL game under his belt, albeit an impressive triumph in the 2017 regular-season finale against Denver. He passed for 284 yards, went to the bench with the lead and returned to march the Chiefs on a game-winning field-goal drive.
“It goes to his competitive nature,” Kafka said. “Honestly, when he came back in we all knew we were going to go back down and win. ... And after something didn’t go right early — he threw an interception — he bounced right back and led the team down and led a field-goal drive. He operated and performed to win the game.”
Mahomes also works closely with offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, just as he and Smith did last season with Matt Nagy, who is now the Chicago Bears' head coach.
And Andy Reid is an offensive mastermind. Mahomes regularly deals with them all.
“We have open conversation between me, Coach Reid, Eric Bieniemy and Mike Kafka,” Mahomes said. “They see what I like, and if we all like something we try to put it in.”
But Kafka drills down with the quarterbacks, as he did last year as a quality control coach and now this year as quarterbacks coach.
He was a standout at Northwestern, a second-team All-Big Ten quarterback in 2009 who passed for 532 yards in a bowl game against Auburn. Kafka was selected by Reid’s Eagles in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft and wound up spending time with seven NFL teams as a reserve.
He got into coaching as a graduate assistant at Northwestern in 2016 and joined the Chiefs last year.
Now, Kafka is the coach who closely works with the first quarterback the Chiefs selected in the first round since Todd Blackledge in 1983. He’s found a player willing to put in the work, which has been revealed with Mahomes’ improved footwork.
“One big point of emphasis,” Kafka said. “I think that right now, where I’m most happy is where Pat’s at with his footwork.”
And it’s not just his own game Mahomes has worked on.
“That’s the best part,” Kafka said. “He’s going behind the scenes to work with guys individually. That’s one thing where he’s taken a big step, in that leadership role.”