Defensive Changes on Horizon for Chiefsby Prime Time Sports Talk January 22, 2019 0 comments
The Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with a sour note on Sunday in a loss to the five-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Despite trailing 14-0 at halftime, the Chiefs stormed back in the second to tie the game at 31-31 to end regulation.
As constituted by NFL’s overtime rules, the winner of the coin flip gets the first crack at winning the game without the opposition getting an opportunity to counter. This was the outcome at Arrowhead Stadium, when the Patriots won the toss, received the kickoff and proceeded down the field to run in a touchdown, a run that would seal yet another chance at a Super Bowl victory for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Following the disappointing defeat, head coach Andy Reid spoke highly of his team’s efforts but acknowledged a need for growth in all aspects from his squad.
When asked about his defense’s inability to keep the Patriots offense from dictating the game and, more specifically, the future of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, Reid said “What I do, I go back—I never talk about that here. I’ve never done that. It’s something I just go back and I look at everything. That’s the best answer I can give you.”
Less than a day after this Reid’s press conference, reports surfaced suggesting that the team’s leadership was indeed having discussions about making moves on the defensive coaching front. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that “internal discussions” had begun about immediate changes to the defensive staff, specifically related to the job status of Sutton.
Early Tuesday afternoon, the team announced that it had relieved Sutton of his duties as defensive coordinator. Although no other moves have been announced, Reid released a statement.
“Bob is a good football coach and a great person. He played an integral role in the success of our team over the last six seasons…This was not an easy decision, but one I feel is in the best interest of the Kansas City Chiefs moving forward.”
With the official ousting of Sutton, the Chiefs are now shopping for a new commander for their defensive cavalry. Will it be an inside hire? What are the key strong suits for a defensive coordinator under Reid? Who is still available on the open market? These are some of the questions that the Kansas City front office will face.
Should Andy Reid promote from within?
As much as Andy loves his guys and always looks to put his staff in positions to succeed, the options from which to choose internally are lacking, at best. Should the Chiefs decide to hire from within for this role, outside linebacker coach Mike Smith, defensive backs coach Al Harris and defensive line coach Britt Reid would be the most likely to land the promotion. Again, with a defense landing at the bottom of the NFL in most major categories, it would be hard to foresee Kansas City selling the fans on promotions from within.
What are the keys for defensive success under Andy Reid?
First off, the expectations for a defense under Reid have shifted a bit over the past year or so.
With Patrick Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs defense can afford to be more aggressive and attack at a more consistent clip than in the past. The key issue is that your defensive backfield must be able to handle some one-on-one coverage against the opposition. This is something the Chiefs have struggled with over the past couple of seasons.
So, with that being said, here are a few keys for the next defensive coordinator for the Chiefs:
The new DC needs to use aggressive 3-4 blitzes. They need to run primarily man coverage. They need to be flexible and have the ability to move outside linebackers from side-to-side.
Sutton’s defensive schemes showed strength when they were able to get linebackers Dee Ford and Justin Houston on the same side of the line. However, this was not a pass-rushing tactic that he used often enough and instead relied on four-man rushes and zone coverage to “hinder” his opponent’s ability to make the big play. This will be a key for the next defensive play-caller for the Chiefs.
Who is still available on the open market?
A better way to word this may be, “Is there anyone worth hiring from the scrap heap of the coordinator free agent market?”
Jokes aside, there may be some solid options out there to fill the void. And, keeping the “keys for defensive success” in mind, some make more sense than others. Here are my top-five external candidates for the defensive coordinator job:
- Rex Ryan, former New York Jets & Buffalo Bills head coach (rumored to be a target)
- Jack Del Rio, former Jacksonville Jaguars & Oakland Raiders head coach
- Clint Hurtt, current assistant head coach for Seattle Seahawks
- Mike Nolan, current linebackers coach for New Orleans Saints
- Chris Wilson, current defensive line coach for Philadelphia Eagles
These five are listed in order of preference, but I’d take any of them over an internal hire at this point.
Ryan, formerly a head coach for the Jets and Bills, comes with the largest resume of defensive success and has created a strong defensive culture at all of his stops. This may be the best potential fit since Sutton was a former disciple of Ryan’s in New York, which could provide a lot of schematic similarities.
Following the completion of this article, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Rex Ryan could be a “name to watch” for Kansas City’s vacant defensive coordinator position.