Mike Kafka, Jay Harbaugh reportedly candidates to join Mike Macdonald’s Seahawks staff

Could a Harbaugh still be in play for Mike Macdonald’s new Seahawks coaching staff? And is there a new, if familiar, name in the search for an offensive coordinator?

Both emerged as possibilities Saturday as Macdonald continues to piece together his coaching staff just two days after he was officially announced as Seattle’s new head coach.

Specifically, a report from stated that Jay Harbaugh — the son of Jim Harbaugh — could be a candidate to join Seattle’s staff.

Meanwhile, a separate report from CBS Sports stated that current New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka — who got two interviews from Seattle in its head-coaching search — could be under consideration to become the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator.

As for Harbaugh, it’s unclear what his role would be as he has experience coaching offense, defense and special teams.

But he has twice worked alongside Macdonald: in 2014, with the Ravens (Macdonald as a defensive intern and Harbaugh as offensive quality-control coach); and in 2021, at Michigan when Macdonald was the defensive coordinator and Harbaugh the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

It had been assumed Jay Harbaugh was going to follow his father to a position with the Los Angeles Chargers. But 247sports reported that the Seahawks “have emerged as an additional possibility for him.”

Larry Izzo has been Seattle’s special teams coordinator the past three years. Izzo interviewed with the Giants last month, but New York later hired Michael Ghobrial, leaving Izzo available to stay with Seattle.

Jay Harbaugh, 34, also coached running backs and safeties at Michigan and was safeties/special teams coordinator the past two seasons. As running backs coach, one of his players was current Seahawk Zach Charbonnet, who began his career at Michigan before transferring to UCLA.

Charbonnet scored 11 touchdowns and had 726 yards in 2019 with Jay Harbaugh coaching running backs.

Chad Morton had been Seattle’s running backs coach since 2017 but recently accepted a similar role with the Bears, who also hired Shane Waldron, Seattle’s OC the past three years, as offensive coordinator.

Kafka in the OC hunt?

As for Kafka, a report from CBS Sports Saturday said “sources say there’s interest” from Seattle.

The Seahawks are also known to be considering former UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb and Detroit passing game coordinator Tanner Engstrand for the OC job.

Kafka had both virtual and in-person interviews with the Seahawks for the head-coaching job before Macdonald’s hire; CBS Sports reported that Kafka “interviewed well.”

Teams can block a coach from leaving for a lateral position. But it had also been unclear what role he will have with the Giants in 2024 if he returns after it was reported that head coach Brian Daboll stripped play-calling duty from Kafka several times during the 2023 season and Daboll was noncommittal when asked after the season whether Kafka would call plays in 2024.

“Those are conversations we’ll have here over the next few months of what direction we’ll go and we’ll make those decisions as we do a full evaluation,” Daboll said.

Being stripped of play-calling duty could be a reason both for Kafka to be interested in coming to Seattle and allow for the move to not be considered lateral.

The Giants’ offense struggled for much of 2023, ranking 30th in points scored and 29th in yards as New York went 6-11.

But New York’s offense was better in Kafka’s first year as OC in 2022, ranking 15th in points scored and fourth in rushing yards. And Kafka, a former quarterback at Northwestern, also earned praise for his work helping groom Patrick Mahomes while an assistant with the Chiefs in several different offensive roles from 2017-21. He spent the last four years as quarterbacks coach and added the title of passing game coordinator the final two.

Macdonald said Thursday that finding the right person was more important than simply rushing to fill out the staff, indicating it could still take a little while to finish all the assistant-coach hires.

Macdonald also said NFL play-calling experience was not a priority in finding an OC.

“We’re looking for the right person to come in here and build this thing,” Macdonald said. “So we want somebody that’s open-minded, that has a growth mindset, that can connect with their players, and build a system that’s unique to the Seattle Seahawks that’s going to live here for a long time and who’s going to be the one spearheading it.”

A source confirmed Friday that the Seahawks will hire Leslie Frazier, a former head coach of the Vikings, as assistant head coach.

The 64-year-old Frazier also was defensive coordinator for the Bills from 2017-22 and worked as secondary coach with the Ravens in 2016 when Macdonald was a defensive assistant. Macdonald took over as defensive backs coach in 2017 when Frazier left for Buffalo.

A source confirmed Frazier is not expected to hold the role of defensive coordinator. Macdonald said Thursday that he plans to continue to call the defensive plays, as he did as the DC with the Ravens the past two years.

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