Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs' Bob Sutton Avoiding Absolutes

Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton isn’t big into labels, and he’ll never say “never.” It’s not a “never give in,” kind of thing, as much as it’s “never eliminate your options” thing. He’s not big on fitting things into nice, neat little labels for the sake of the label. Hell, his college coaching career should tell you that.

After 2 years as a Graduate Assistant at Michigan, Sutton got his first job as Linebackers Coach at Syracuse in 1974. After just one season at Syracuse, Western Michigan Head Coach Elliot Uzelac brought Sutton on as Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers coach. Then, after 2 seasons with Western Michigan, Illinois hired him in the same capacity. Sutton spent 3 seasons as the Illini Defensive Coordinator before returning to Western Michigan. This time, however, Uzelac named Sutton Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach/ Quarterbacks Coach. After 3 years in his offensive stint with Western Michigan, he signed on to coach the NC State running backs for the 1982 season. In 1983, Sutton began his 17-season career with Army, where he served as Defensive Coordinator, and eventually, Head Coach.

Just looking at Sutton’s history should tell you that first and foremost, he’s a football coach. In a span of 9 seasons, Sutton coached Linebackers, Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers, Running Backs, and also coordinated offense and defense (in 2 stints with the same team). He didn’t ever limit his options. While he has primarily coached D throughout his career, the fact that Uzelac was comfortable giving his former Defensive Coordinator the keys to his offense is telling. So is the fact that Sutton was comfortable taking said keys.

You can see this philosophy manifest itself in Sutton’s defense. Sometimes, the Chiefs blitz. Sometimes, the Chiefs rush 3 and drop 8. Sometimes, the Chiefs run a 3-4, and sometimes they run a 4-3. Mike DeVito, who played with Sutton when he coached in New York, has spoken many times about Sutton’s defense being a “hybrid,” and so far this season, we’ve seen just that.

Thursday, Sutton addressed the media ahead of this Sunday’s matchup against Cleveland. On a few occasions, Sutton discussed absolutes like “always, and “never,” and how that applies to his defense in Kansas City:

“[W]e try to adapt to the situation. We try to keep the offense off balance. The two categories you’d like to stay out of are ‘never’ and ‘always;’ you never do this or you always do that. If you do that, you make the offense account for everything. It is the same for us on defense, when they make us do that, we have to account for everything and that thins you out to some degree.”

What Sutton has done this season in orchestrating what is now the leagues best defense, is keep the opponent guessing. Sutton has kept his options wide open, and by doing so, he’s kept offenses on their heels. By staying away from absolutes like “never,” and “always,” Sutton has created a doubt in the minds of opposing offenses. When playing the Chiefs, teams can’t simply prepare for different blitz schemes. They can’t draw up plays that beat the Cover 2. They can’t game plan for a 3-4, or a 4-3, or a 2-Gap, or a 1-Gap. They can only prepare to play the Chiefs. And for 31 teams in this league, that’s “always” a terrifying thing.

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Tags: Bob Sutton Kansas City Chiefs Mike DeVito

  • kcseek

    I “absolutely” agree with Sutton’s defensive philosophy, but “never” would I reveal such a perfect defensive plan!
    Absolutes are a cornerstone in CBT!! Interesting how it works so well in football strategy too!
    One would expect it to work equally well in offensive strategy as well!

    • berttheclock

      Having spent a great deal of time around thoroughbred tracks in my misspent youth, I found only one absolute in play. That one is “there are no absolutes”.

      • kcseek

        The irony in the statement “There are no absolutes” is that it’s an absolute statement! :-)

        Regarding Matt Cassel, most Chief’s fans could probably use a little therapy after being tramatized watching Cassel handle the football like he was handling a live grenade. All the tension and anxiety during each game Cassel play in was like watching the film The Hurt Locker over and over for the entire season! LOL

    • berttheclock

      Hmmm, I wonder how that might have worked with say Matt Cassel lying on the couch and talking about his paranoid and delusional visions of giant defensive linemen slamming into him. Or were those really real?

  • John Matthew Sola

    Love the last few lines great piece of written work go chiefs

  • Joe Myers


  • chris

    Very nice: however, I think this would be a week to break that rule a little. Clevland has given up 27 sacks this season (tied for 2nd most in the nfl) and has not faced a defense that can get to the qb as well as the chiefs can, obviously because noone can. So I propose that we ‘always’ blitz on sunday

  • berttheclock

    What I admire the most in the work of Sutton is his 2nd half and, especially, his fourth quarter adjustments. He keeps winning the chess matches against opposing offensive co-ords. Last Sunday was a case in point, when, he put Hali and Houston next to each other and had them rush as a tandem.

    One other very important part of his work is understanding the strengths of each player and uses them as such. He is not the round hole square peg type of coach which, unfortunately, the Chiefs have had in the past.