There are pros and cons to being an NFL assistant coach when it comes to working from the sidelines of the team or from the press box.
The greatest pro is being a part of the moment and the emotion of the game, in good times and bad. That of course resolves somewhat when a coach decides to work from the press box, although having that eye in the sky can also be beneficial as it allows the coach to see All-22 staff in real-time .
For New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, it was never a question of where he would be stationed on game day. Rather than stay on the sidelines, the first-year offensive coordinator chose to sit in the press box, which has worked well for him in more ways than one.
“Being in the dressing room was definitely different,” he said on Wednesday. “I’ve spent the last few years on the field. Not good or (bad) – I think these are just different experiences.
“Down on the field you get a little bit more of a feel for the players, you’re right next to them and you can communicate it. When you’re up in the cab, you get a bigger picture — sort of a bird’s-eye view of the field.”
Kafka frowns on those who choose to work from the sidelines — defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey have chosen to work on the sidelines for years.
“You have to trust in both directions. Whether you’re on the field, familiar up in the dressing room, and when you’re in the dressing room, familiar down the field to get the right information,” Kafka said.
Another advantage Kafka found working from the booth is that he is removed from some emotions that could lead to a hasty decision and is able to think with a clearer head and minimal distractions.
“You can think a little,” he said. “You have more time to think and to spread out. You have an area there where you can write down some notes. You don’t have that in the field, a desk and all that. It’s definitely quieter so you don’t have to worry about the noise of the crowd between rides and such. Those are probably the two main differences.
Of course it’s a challenge to be a good communicator when you’re at the top of the dressing room. Kafka, for example, doesn’t come to the touchline on offense to plot a play on the board or see a photo of what the opposing team did.
According to Kafka, the time to delve into this part of the game is during practice, when all the coaches are on the field with the players.
“Yes, those are things that you practice at training camp and OTAs, pronouncing the pieces and working through how I’m going to communicate that number or that set of pieces and how the quarterback wants to hear it,” he said.
“That’s all that matters when I’m talking to the quarterback, that he gets the information quickly and concisely, he can hear it, and he can relay it that way.”
The arrangement has worked for the Giants, who are preparing to face the Philadelphia Eagles in Saturday’s Divisional Playoff Round. Kafka credits quarterback Daniel Jones with making it that way.
“Daniel is doing a great job with the headset and communicating with the huddle, letting us know what we want to get rolling on offense,” he said.