KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- His arrival was hardly heralded as a major step for the Kansas City Chiefs. The hiring of Bob Sutton as Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator was in fact greeted in town by a lot of shrugs.
Sutton, 62, was a veteran in his field, the highlights of his career being nine seasons as the head coach at Army and 13 as an assistant for the New York Jets. But he was largely unknown in Kansas City.
No more. Sutton, with the Chiefs at 3-0 and their aggressive defense leading the way, is approaching rock star status in Kansas City. He molded a group of talented but underachieving players into what so far has been one of the best defensive teams in the league and Sutton’s hire is looking like one of coach Andy Reid’s better moves.
“I like the scheme," Reid said, referring to the frequent blitzes that Sutton prefers. “I think he was right for this team here. The production in that system has been one of the better ones.’’
Sutton may have been anonymous among the fans when he joined the Chiefs but in his profession he has been a coveted assistant for years. Former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards once tried to hire Sutton, as did Reid when he was with the Eagles.
Both were unsuccessful because the Jets wouldn’t let him out of his New York contract.
Reid needed a veteran as defensive coordinator, a coach he could trust, because he spends so much time working with the offense. He found that in Sutton, who quickly got the players to buy into his system that was so much different than the read-and-react schemes they played under former coordinators Romeo Crennel and Gary Gibbs.
It wasn’t always easy. Roles for some veteran players changed in ways that weren’t universally popular. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali, a Pro Bowler in each of the past two seasons because of his pass-rush ability, has been asked to cover receivers more this season.
“He’s always talking to me just to figure what’s going on with me on the field because sometimes I get frustrated because I’m dropping [into pass coverage] a lot," Hali said. "But he’s a players’ coach. He talks to everybody. He gets a feel for every player.
“The difference is having a relationship with your coordinator and having him believe in what we can do. He’s just a smart guy. He’s able to play chess with the other teams. Sometimes he might guess wrong but most of the time he’s calling it right."