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!