Does Bob Sutton deserve an apology from Kansas City Chiefs fans?
By Ellen Mathis
With the Kansas City Chiefs defense playing progressively better, is it time to step back from our criticisms of Bob Sutton and apologize?
Go back with me, back to January, when the Kansas City Chiefs defense couldn’t stop the Tennessee Titans rushing attack and the team once again blew a lead in the playoffs. Immediately after that game, Chiefs fans were calling for Bob Sutton’s head. We all wanted him fired because the defense lost us the game. It seemed all but inevitable that the Chiefs would let Sutton go and bring in a new defensive coordinator.
Fast forward to training camp. Somehow, Sutton is still the defensive coordinator. Brett Veach and the rest of the front office made moves in the offseason to “fix” the defense through the draft and signed guys like linebacker Anthony Hitchens. But still, Sutton is somehow here. Chiefs fans are left wondering why and how he’s remained in his position.
Fast forward again to Week 6. The Chiefs defense, hindered by injuries, can’t stop the Patriots and the Chiefs are handed their first loss of the 2018 season. Again, questions circulate. Why can’t the Chiefs defense stop anyone? What happens in the playoffs when their high-powered offense faces another high-powered offense that the defense can’t stop?
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Then something happened. The defense started playing better. Slowly but surely, they have limited their opponents’ points. Slowly but surely, the yards allowed have decreased. Slowly but surely, turnovers have been produced. The Chiefs defense seems to have turned a corner.
What has changed? We were so quick to place blame on Sutton for the defensive failures, so is it time to credit him with the defensive success?
I have a theory on how the change has occurred. We started off the season with a defense that was largely new: new guys who had not played together with rookies who had not seen an NFL field. The defense was also faced with tough injuries to key positions with both safeties Eric Berry and Dan Sorensen out. It takes time for players to feel out each other and adjust to the communication and scheme, but Sutton has maybe—just maybe—found a way to bring them around.
The rookies are developing nicely. Derek Nnadi has been solid on the defensive line. Breeland Speaks continues to show flashes of development as an edge rusher. Dorian O’Daniel is starting to see more playing time. Ben Niemann has slowly gotten more snaps. Do we then conclude that Bob Sutton was possibly the scapegoat for issues that we as fans could not see? Maybe the answer is simple. Maybe Bob Sutton actually knows what he is doing.
Last year, the defense was plagued with injury. Eric Berry tore his Achilles in Week 1 and Dee Ford was placed on IR halfway through the season. Are we simply looking for someone to blame and Sutton was the easy answer? There is a counter-argument here. Sutton is a defensive coordinator in the NFL. If a couple injuries cause the defense to fall apart, shouldn’t he be held responsible? Of course. But shouldn’t he also, then, be credited when the defense performs well?
Maybe it is time to apologize to Bob Sutton or at the very least adjust our thinking. The defense is playing better and Monday night’s game will be a big test for them. I for one, am getting behind Bob and hoping he can show us exactly why he is still the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator. Here’s hoping he shows Chiefs Kingdom he was worth keeping around.