Should we believe in Bob Sutton?

The Kansas City Chiefs elected to keep Bob Sutton as defensive coordinator despite the jeers and criticism of fans and analysts alike. Should we believe?

It has been a wild offseason.

The Kansas City Chiefs elected to keep Bob Sutton on Andy Reid’s staff, despite the jeers and criticisms of fans and analysts alike. Along with keeping the defensive coordinator, the team also traded away cornerback Marcus Peters, who led the team in turnovers forced last season.

The team invested heavily in fixing the rush defense and tried to patch the pass defense this ofseason. By acquiring Kendall Fuller, who is regarded as one of the NFL’s top slot corners, the team tried to fill the void left from the departure of Marcus Peters. Furthermore, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach decided to make the 2018 NFL Draft another defensive investment. The team drafted all defensive players (although the plan is to move former defensive tackle Khalil Mackenzie to offensive line).

All of this, along with a couple of free agent additions, shows me one thing: the Chiefs want to believe in Bob Sutton.

An overview of Sutton’s tenure

Bob Sutton has been the DC for Andy Reid’s coaching staff for the duration of his tenure in Kansas City. That is a span of five years. In that span, this is what the Chiefs defenses have looked like (NFL overall rankings):

2013

  • Total Yards: 5,885 (24th)
  • Avg Yards per game: 367.8 (24th)
  • Passing Yards: 3,962 (T-25th)
  • Rushing Yards: 1,923 (22th)
  • Points: 305 (T-5th)
  • Points per game: 19.1 (T-5th)

Top Individual performers:

  • Tackles: Derrick Johnson: 107 (34th)
  • Interceptions: Quentin Demps: 4 (T-11)
  • Sacks: Tamba Hali/Justin Houston: 11/ea (T-11)

2014

  • Total Yards: 5288 (7th)
  • Avg Yards per game: 330.5 (7th)
  • Passing Yards: 3252 (2nd)
  • Rushing Yards: 2036 (28th)
  • Points: 281 (2nd)
  • Points per game: 17.6 (2nd)

Top Individual performers:

  • Tackles: Josh Mauga: 103 (T-36)
  • Interceptions: Kurt Coleman: (T-3rd)
  • Sacks: Justin Houston: 22 (1st)

2015

  • Total Yards: 5269 (7th)
  • Avg Yards per game: 329.3 (7th)
  • Passing Yards: 3698 (9th)
  • Rushing Yards: 1571 (8th)
  • Points: 287 (3rd)
  • Points per game: 17.9 (3rd)

Top Individual performers:

  • Tackles: Derrick Johnson:117 (T-16th)
  • Interceptions: Marcus Peters: 8 (T-1st)
  • Sacks: Justin Houston: 7.5 (27th)

2016

  • Total Yards: 5896 (24th)
  • Avg Yards per game: 368.5 (24th)
  • Passing Yards: 3958 (18th)
  • Rushing Yards: 1938 (26th)
  • Points: 311 (7th)
  • Points per game: 19.4 (7th)

Top Individual performers:

  • Tackles: Derrick Johnson: 90 (47th)
  • Interceptions: Marcus Peters: 6 (T-2nd)
  • Sacks: Dee Ford: 10 (T-15th)

2017

  • Total Yards: 5842 (28th)
  • Avg Yards per game: 365.1 (28th)
  • Passing Yards: 3952 (29th)
  • Rushing Yards: 1890 (25th)
  • Points: 339 (15th)
  • Points per game: 21.2 (15th)

Top Individual performers:

  • Tackles: Daniel Sorensen: 89 (42nd)
  • Interceptions: Marcus Peters: 5 (T-5th)
  • Sacks: Justin Houston: 9.5 (19th)

Analysis

Bob Sutton’s defenses have clearly taken steps back in the past two seasons. The evidence is not only in the team’s overall statistics, but in the fact that Daniel Sorensen as the strong safety led the team in tackles. That is never good for a team.

Bob Sutton has also seemed to always struggle against the run. With the exception of 2015, Sutton has always had some of the worst run-stuffing defenses in the National Football League. Kansas City seemed to be interested in fixing that problem this off-season. However, the data would suggest that the pass defense is what needs to be addressed first. Last season, the Chiefs were three spots above the worst in the NFL. Overall, Bob Sutton’s career in Kansas City has looked inconsistent.

“Bend. Don’t Break.”

Furthermore, I believe the statistics show a myth that many of us have bought into. We have all heard it: “Bob Sutton’s defenses are all about bending, but not breaking.” This has risen to the surface in the last couple seasons as the team has managed to limit points, but given up a lot of yards. However, during Sutton’s tenure, it has not always been this way.

In 2014 and 2015, the team had a top ten defense in terms of limiting yards. I think it is great that Sutton’s defenses limit points. That is the most important aspect of any team’s defense. However, if a team wants to be dominant, limiting yards is crucial. Let’s take a look at how Sutton has succeeded and how Kansas City can get back on track:

Pass Defense

Bob Sutton has had more success against the pass than the run during his time in Kansas City. That has been obvious. However, last season was not kind to the Chiefs. The team gave up a lot of big plays due to several factors:

  • Eric Berry’s injury
  • Inability to sack the quarterback
  • Lack of aggression in play-calling
  • Poor overall defensive speed

So, how does Bob fix this? The Chiefs had not struggled against the pass as badly until last season. First and foremost, Bob Sutton can fix this by blitzing more. The Chiefs did not apply extra pressure, and Justin Houston was dropped into coverage almost a third of the time that he played. The Chiefs must use Houston correctly and use more pass-rushers. I hope that Bob Sutton installs a defensive package in which the Chiefs have Breeland Speaks, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston all rushing the passer. I think that this would go a long way in improving the team’s ability against the pass.

The defense must be on the same page and have some speed in nickel and dime sets. With the return of Eric Berry will go a long way in helping keep teammates on the same page. Berry is to the Chiefs defense what Tom Brady is to the Patriots offense. That being said, the Chiefs will need to be faster. It is my opinion that Derrick Johnson debilitated the defense with his lack of sideline-to-sideline speed. Furthermore, Derrelle Revis played considerable time at cornerback, which provided less-than-ideal speed against receivers. Kansas City has brought in younger players and this should fix some of these issues with speed.

Run Defense

This is tougher to calculate. As aforementioned, the Chiefs have struggled mightily against the run under Bob Sutton’s leadership. That is, with the exception of 2015. I decided to look back to that season and find out what Kansas City did to finish with the eighth best run defense. These are a few of the things that stood out to me:

Derrick Johnson‘s dominance at the line of scrimmage was key to Kansas City’s success. He was able to slip through and make takles in the backfield. Johnson should good leverage against blockers and speed to the inside. With Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens in the middle of the defense, we could see this improvement from last season immediately.

In 2015, the Chiefs had excellent run-stopping defensive linemenThe Chiefs had Mike DeVito, Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard, and Allen Bailey playing on the line. DeVito was especially good at plugging up lanes for running backs. Howard and Bailey were both very strong and able to move blockers to prevent big runs from happening.

The Chiefs also had help from one of the best run-stopping defensive backs in football, Eric Berry. Berry was able to slide through gaps that were created by the strong defensive front to tackle ball carriers in the backfield. They will need Berry to come through in a big way again this season.

Verdict

I am still not sold on Bob Sutton. However, after doing some homework, I do not feel as badly as I did beforehand. Perhaps giving Sutton more strength and speed will alleviate some of the problems of last season. I think it is time for Sutton to revert back to his old ways, or be let go. Kansas City cannot afford to squander their team’s success with poor defensive performances. With the money invested in Eric Berry and Justin Houston, Kansas City cannot allow the defense’s woes to ruin the offense’s successes.

What say you, Addicts? What must Sutton do to turn it around? Do you have faith in Bob Sutton? Will this season’s defense be better than last? Is Sutton on the hot seat and is this his last chance?

Tell us in the comments below!