Despite public appeals for changes on the defensive side of the coaching staff, Chiefs Kingdom is still wondering what will happen to Bob Sutton—if anything at all.
It took only four days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season was over for a complete offensive overhaul.
Two days after the team’s season-ending loss to the Tennessee Titans, Brad Childress, a longtime friend of Andy Reid and the team’s assistant head coach, decided to retire. The Chicago Bears also announced that same day, on Monday, that they were hiring away offensive coordinator Matt Nagy to fill their head coaching vacancy that opened when they fired John Fox.
By Wednesday, Eric Bieniemy was being announced as the replacement for Nagy and the entire offensive side of the coaching staff had just undergone a considerable shake-up.
The problem: the offensive side wasn’t the concerning one for most fans.
There’s a reason Sam Mellinger delivered such a direct message after the season was over in his column at the Kansas City Star, wherein he called for Reid to fire his friend and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. The defense simply hasn’t been working yet the talent is there for the unit to dominate.
Players haven’t been fully utilized to their strengths. The unit has felt soft for some time. The inability to stop exactly what you know will happen (a la Derrick Henry running late in Saturday’s loss) is maddening to watch. It’s why every Chiefs fan has developed the defense mechanism that keeps them from believing despite being up by 18.
Fans have called for Sutton’s job.
So why has the offense been completely overhauled in a matter of hours and days while we’re still waiting to hear something—even news that Reid is sticking by Sutton after all—nearly a week after the team’s final game?
A few random thoughts on Reid, Sutton and where things stand in this awkward period of silence.
Does Reid even know?
To me, this is the most important one of all. It’s possible that several days after the final loss, he still doesn’t know what to do about Bob Sutton. These decisions are emotional ones, even after the emotions die down a bit. Reid admitted as much after the Titans loss when he said, “You have to step back and let your emotions get out of it and look at it.”
Reid is right here. Emotions cannot be why you make a personnel or staff decision in professional football. Emotions can fuel suspending a player. Emotions can inform whether a player earns more or less time on the field. Emotions cannot be part of the equation of whether that person is even around anymore or not.
Reid has to move beyond the emotions of frustration with Sutton (or maybe sorrow at the possibility of not working with him). If he cannot, then he needs to wait until they’ve passed or waned in order to make a decision. So it’s possible that Reid doesn’t even know what he wants to do yet—and that’s okay (even though I know you’re shaking your head right now because…)
The worry about options
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I can hear your worries now: if Andy Reid doesn’t act soon, there won’t be anyone left to take over if he does fire Sutton. Every day, new coaches and coordinators are getting interviewed. Every day, new staff members are packing their boxes to take advantage of various new opportunities. Some impressive names have already been claimed already. How many more are left?
I get this energy. I really do. When I read that teams were competing for Gus Bradley’s services, I wondered why the Chiefs were not a part of that. Then again, at this point, we don’t even know if the Chiefs will be in the market for a new defensive coordinator. That’s frustrating for fans eager to turn the page.
But here’s what is true: there’s always a decent candidate out there. Andy Reid is now as well-connected as any head coach in the NFL. He’s brought in college perspectives before in Chris Ault. He’s brought back old friends like Childress. The Chiefs have a stable, winning organization that a lot of coaches would want to be a part of. If the Chiefs weren’t going to simply promote from within, they would land someone even if you tend the view the offseason as an hourglass with limited grains of sand flowing through.
Waiting on other teams
There’s been a bit of conjecture on Twitter that perhaps the Chiefs are waiting to make any moves on the defensive side until other teams have ended their seasons. After all, there are still 8 teams, one entire quarter of the NFL, who are still solely focused on the success of the present. That’s not a bad idea to pluck talent from teams good enough to play late into January.
This approach sounds good to those who would love for Reid to not only fire Sutton but to bring in an outsider to replace him. However, there’s little reason at all to believe this. Remember Matt Nagy knew he had two interviews on Sunday whether the Chiefs won or lost on Saturday. While some boundaries are in place regarding interview times during the playoffs, teams who want to talk to someone still make it happen.
The reality is that “waiting for a team to finish” isn’t a concern in today’s NFL. Unless a team said specifically that they would only release their coaches to interview after the playoffs, which I’ve certainly never heard this year, then maybe the Chiefs would have good reason for the silence.
Instead the best way to interpret it is that the Chiefs aren’t interested in an outsider even if they end up firing Sutton.
Make sure it’s the right thing
If I had to guess where things were at for Andy Reid and the Chiefs leadership, I would likely say that the team simply doesn’t know yet. It’s easy for fans to look at some stats or remember some games and then lash out emotionally, something akin to “How much more does Reid need to see Justin Houston dropping into coverage?!”
But Sutton has a body of work with the Chiefs that’s actually pretty good on paper despite your present emotions. Consider the following:
- The Chiefs have finished in the top 10 in point differential every year under Sutton.
- The Chiefs have finished first or second in the NFL in four of Sutton’s five seasons in takeaway ratio.
- The Chiefs have ranked Top 7 in total takeaways in four of Sutton’s five seasons in K.C.
Please hear me say this: I’m not saying Sutton shouldn’t be fired. The lack of aggression. The odd schemes. The sheer predictability. The easy yards often given away like candy at a parade. It’s all there. But I think it’s also important to note that Sutton has enjoyed some very, very good years here in K.C. and they’re not distant memories either.
This is what Reid has to figure out. Did Sutton just have a bad year? Will the development of young players and the return of injured ones make the difference?
Even more important: is firing Sutton the answer? My father always told me to never quit one job without having another one already in place. He’s right. You can’t just get rid of something without a executable plan to make it better. To look at Gary Gibbs or Al Harris and simply hope they are better than Sutton is not such a plan, even if Chiefs Kingdom would like to believe so.
If the Chiefs aren’t interested in securing an outsider, which they don’t seem particularly motivated, then I’m pretty sure Reid knows he can take his sweet time because if any move will be made, it will be a non-emotional one that has become convinced another assistant is better than the current coordinator.
If not, then we might find Sutton still around in 2018 despite the collective hope for something new.