NFL head coaching carousel: Will Giants’ coordinators Mike Kafka, Wink Martindale draw interest?

The NFL coaching carousel has begun to spin. There were three openings before the regular season ended, and two more have been created today with the firings of Lovie Smith and Kliff Kingsbury by the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals, respectively.

New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale figure to draw some interest on the head coaching interview circuit. Let’s look at the current openings and see if any of them fit the Giants’ coordinators.

Arizona Cardinals

Kliff Kingsbury was fired after a 4-13 season in Arizona, and GM Steve Keim followed him out the door shortly thereafter, stepping away for health reasons.

Whether Kafka or Martindale would get a look for this job is likely dependent on whether whoever gets the GM job has any ties to one of them.

Judy Batista if NFL.com writes that the Cardinals could seek a coach who would also get personal control. Working with Kyler Murray might intrigue Kafka, but if Arizona is looking for more than a coach it wouldn’t seem either Kafka or Martindale fit the description.

Carolina Panthers

New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks

Mike Kafka
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Matt Rhule was fired when Carolina was 1-4 and interim coach Steve Wilks guided them to a 6-6 record over 12 games. Wilks probably deserves the full-time gig, and he probably won’t get it.

Panthers owner David Tepper seems like the type who wants a brand name, and has apparently already reached outMichigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

Batista reported that Tepper, if he can’t get Harbaugh, is likely to skew toward “rising offensive gurus.” So, perhaps Kafka gets a look here.

Indianapolis Colts

They can’t possibly give the full-time job to Jeff Saturday. Can they?

Batista writes:

Irsay’s impatience this season may turn off some candidates, although until now, he had been a patient — maybe too patient — owner. Still, if the Colts make the right hire and land the right quarterback, they play in a division without a dominant team. That means a quick turnaround is possible, but Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard have to nail the big decisions. Expect Harbaugh’s name to be banned about because of his ties to the organization as a former Colts quarterback.

The Colts have no choice but to use their first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on a quarterback. That would seem to work against Martindale. Still, I can’t help but think of Indianapolis as a place that could — more than anything else — benefit from a real leader and solid presence at the top of their organization. Martindale can be that guy.

Denver Broncos

Harbaugh and Sean Payton are considered top candidates for a new ownership group here that seems intent on making a splash.

Since the first part of this job is fixing quarterback Russell Wilson, I can’t imagine Martindale would draw interest — or be interested. Kafka might be interested, although I’m not sure he should be, if the big names pass on the job.

Houston Texans

No shot Martindale gets this job. After the Texans went one-and-done with veteran coaches David Culley and Lovie Smith, they almost have to hire a young coach. That seems to be the way they are thinking.

Kafka fits the description, especially since this is another team likely to be drafting a quarterback with its first pick. This job, though, might be a hard sell. Batista writes:

Houston’s biggest hurdle in the hiring process, though, might be convincing quality candidates that Cal McNair has the patience to see a rebuild through. Since he took over the team following the death of his father, former owner Bob McNair, in 2018, he has fired one general manager (Brian Gaine) and two head coaches (Smith and David Culley) after one season each. He gave Bill O’Brien too much personal power, and then when O’Brien made the kinds of mistakes one might have predicted for someone inexperienced at that part of the job, McNair fired him. He gave power to Jack Easterby, the Patriots’ former team chaplain, who has since left. In light of the recent rate of turnover, top candidates will likely have to be sold by GM Nick Caserio on the potential to build something from scratch — and probably must be offered a long contract.

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