Concerning The Chiefs’ Defense: What About Bob?

By show of hands, how many of you were familiar with the Kansas City Chiefs’ new defensive coordinator before he was hired by Andy Reid? . . . Thank you kindly for answering. The twelve of you in the audience are welcome to put your hands down now.

Of the 13 years Bob Sutton has been in the league, only a couple of them have been spent as a defensive coordinator (he had a three-year stint with the New York Jets that began in 2006). Sutton was brought to the NFL by then-head coach Al Groh, after nearly 30 years of coaching in the collegiate ranks. He served as the team’s linebackers coach for 5 years before being promoted to DC.

The defensive results, from the three years he occupied that role with New York, were mixed. Sutton’s first season with the team was a success (the Jets were the 6th-ranked scoring defense in the league that year). In 2007 and 2008, New York finished 19th and 18th, respectively. Over that stretch, the Jets’ defense had 104 sacks. New York was a middle-of-the-pack defense in terms of rushing the passer (averaging approximately 34.5 sacks per year under Sutton). In fairness to Sutton though, they weren’t exactly loaded with pass-rushing talent.

The Jets were also a middling group as run defenders. From 2006-2008, they surrendered an average of 1,919 rushing yards per season. Year-over-year, that’s good for roughly 16th or 17th in the NFL. Run defense, like the Jets pass-rush during those years, was another area that left something to be desired defensively. 

The Jets began the 2006 season by giving up at least 125 rushing yards in nine of their first ten games. The next year they were gashed, to the tune of 196 rushing yards, in an early-November game against the Washington Redskins. It was by far the best rushing day of the season for runningback Clinton Portis. The Jets also contributed to one of just three 100-yard games Marshawn Lynch had in 2008. Those defenses were especially generous at home (both of the aforementioned single-game efforts happened at the Meadowlands).

Sutton’s service time as a defensive coordinator has been marked by mediocrity. His defenses, for all intents and purposes, have been little more than serviceable. It’s fair to note that the Jets’ personnel was never really suited to the 3-4 though. Given that information, it’s tough to know how much of the mediocrity Sutton is really responsible for.

Is there any reason to believe he’ll be the answer in Kansas City? This is arguably the most talented bunch of defensive players he’s ever coached, but will that be enough to make for significant improvement? Can this football team avoid another season like 2012 where they were the 20th-ranked total defense and 25th-ranked scoring defense in the league? I’d venture to guess that few are convinced yet.

If there’s one reason for Chiefs Kingdom to be excited about Sutton, it’s his defensive scheme. The Chiefs have abandoned the bend-don’t break, 2-gap version of the 3-4 that Romeo Crennel brought to Kansas City. Sutton’s 1-gap version of the 3-4 is a much more aggressive style of defense. In the previous scheme, defensive linemen were responsible for controlling the gaps and absorbing blockers. Where effective, it allowed linebackers to flow freely. With the 1-gap version of the scheme, defensive linemen will be free to penetrate and linebackers will have to take on and shed blocks.

We still don’t have full details on the specific responsibilities each position group will have, but we know the Chiefs plan to bring lots of pressure in 2013. Here’s what Tamba Hali had to say about Sutton’s defense:

Yeah, these guys came from systems where they attacked. Nothing against our old system, but there wasn’t attacking. They’re actually looking forward to this defense because they get to attack and shoot gaps and push guys back and make plays.

Philosophy alone won’t make the Chiefs into a Top 10 defense. They’ll still need good defensive playcalling from Sutton and execution on the field. The approach to the game is a significant piece though. With league changes that favor passing games, the Crennel Way is losing favor around the NFL. The Chiefs won’t be in the business of being dictated to in 2013. The new-look Kansas City Chiefs plan on doing the dictation.

Addicts, do you think Bob Sutton is the right man for the job or are we headed for another disappointing season from Kansas City’s defense? Use the comment section below to weigh in. As always, I appreciate your readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!


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  • Jarad

    I’ve said it multiple times on different posts. The defense is the biggest question by far. Turnovers are the biggest game changers in football and if you cant create them, its an uphill battle. Im also a little scared of giving up too many big plays with the new additions (Smith Robinson). Sutton wants to attack and thats great, but the reward better be worth the risk. The one saving grace about THIS Chiefs team is that they “seem” to have the right coach, QB, and offense in general to make up for a big play here and there. Heres to creating turnovers!

    • Stacy D. Smith

      I think turnovers will be a by-product of playing a more aggressive style.

      • Jarad

        Yea, i thinkthats a given. I just worry that the new faces along with a lot of moving parts will result in some big mistakes. Hopefully the turnovers greatly outweigh the big plays surrendered

        • Stacy D. Smith

          It’s to be expected with new faces and rookies.

  • Calchiefsfan

    I’m not expecting a lot from Sutton and the D this season. Sutton just doesn’t have a record of achievement so I don’t see how he can somehow turn into this great DC. I made that mistake, (a complete loss of common sense really), last year with Daboll. I hope the D does well and they have enough talent it seems to be successful but we saw last year how much coaching impacts a team.

    I will say, having played defense, that I can understand the players excitement in playing in an attacking scheme. Much more fun. Stacy is right, it should generate more turnovers. So if anything they will be more fun to watch than last year but I do expect them to get burnt more by big plays than they did last year as well.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      I think I’m somewhere in the middle. Sutton doesn’t have a poor record of achievement either. I also have to reiterate the fact that he was asked too coordinate a 3-4 with 4-3 personnel. All of that said, he’s still been a middling DC in this league. I believe this is the best group of defensive players he’s ever had. I’m not convinced he’ll succeed, but I won’t be shocked either.

    • KCMikeG

      Amen on Daboll. He was going to form his system to best utilize the strengths of the players. Crushing disappointment. Cautiously but still optimistic as the talent level of the defense has improved and attacking and giving up a big play from time to time is so much better than slowly, continually submitting. Smith will be better than anyone we have had in years which will bring out the best production we have seen in years on our offense which also allows the defense to be more aggressive.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Difference is, Daboll stunk as an offensive coordinator prior to coming to Kansas City.

        • KCMikeG

          Actually he took two really crappy teams and made them slightly better. I actually did the research before I put on my Homer Vision glasses last offseason but watched things fall apart from the get go.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            Only the Dolphins improved under Daboll (they improved 10 spots once he got there). Cleveland only improved 1 spot in scoring offense in 2009. They fell 2 spots the following year. Kansas City also got worse.

          • KCMikeG

            NO Doubt about it he was Awful in KC! On the surface the Browns ranks are exactly as you stated but if you look deeper he improved total points scored by 39 points in 2009, by another 26 points in 2010 and drastically reduced the ridiculous turnover differential from 2009 in 2010. Minus 12 turnover ratio in his 1st year in Cleveland looks very much like last year here.

            2008 Browns Rank

            Scored 232 points (14.5/g), 30th of 32 in the NFL.

            2009 Rank:

            Scored 245 points (15.3/g), 29th of 32 in the NFL.

            Takeaway/Giveaway Differential -12 (-0.8/g), 29th.

            2010 Rank

            Scored 271 points (16.9/g), 31st of 32 in the NFL.

            Takeaway/Giveaway Differential -1 (-0.1/g), 15th

          • Stacy D. Smith

            Only 39 more points with an offense he had for 2 years? That just doesn’t qualify as improvement in my mind.

          • KCMikeG

            I did say slightly better than crappy.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            I’ll give you that.

  • NicholasAlanClayton

    I’m a fan, and it also deserves to be mentioned that the Jets were playing tough schedules during the years that Sutton was there including trying to compete in the AFC East against the New England Patriots. At this point, anything that gives us some aggressiveness to the defense will find a champion in my person, whether it results in the occasional blown coverage or not.

  • Jim Harper

    Only time will tell us if Sutton is the right guy to head up the defense. So far I am very impressed with the overall team excitement they all seem to have learning the new defense. I see quite a few of you are concerned about his lack of having a top ranked defense. Bear in mind that he had to operate under Rex Ryan which no doubt had an effect on what he wanted to do.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      When Sutton was a defensive coordinator in New York, he worked under Eric Mangini. When Ryan arrived, he went back to coaching the linebackers.

  • dakotachief

    Cautiously Optimistic…If nothing else it seems as if a renewed excitement has been birthed in the KC players. They are buying in to a new vision. I have to believe its really hard for a defensive person who is set out on destroying someone can get fired up for a bend dont break vision. Good things happen when big fast bodies are flying around trying to destroy people. A good leader (coach) has to cast a vision that his players believe in. It seems as if sutton has done that. Countries have been toppled by great leaders with great vision. It sounds like sutton has his players ready to take a bullet for him…and that’s not a bad start.