Fanpost: A Eulogy

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A Fanpost by stjoechief:

Bob Sutton, the longest tenured defensive coordinator in the NFL, has been fired from the Kansas City Chiefs.  Most of the fan base, myself included, believe this is a good thing.  Some (looking at you, Tony) think Coach Sutton got the shaft and is being blamed for poor personnel decisions by Brett Veach.  Few assistant coaches have generated so much controversy.  Some see his defenses as woefully soft and unable to get off the field.  Others see them as stingy on points and strong on turnovers.  In a probably vain attempt to get everyone into a group hug, I’m here to tell you that all of you are right.  And here’s the really crazy part:  all of you are right for the same reason.

First of all, it’s not all Dee Ford’s fault.  Yes, he lined up offsides.  Yes, he generated a penalty that negated a game winning interception in the AFC Championship Game.  Yes, that play would have completely changed the history of the Kansas City Chiefs, sending them to their first Super Bowl in forty nine f****ing years.  

Ahem.  

Pardon me, I’m still a little emotional about this.  I’m sure you understand. 
On my way to the game I had 101.1 The Fox’s pregame show on, and heard Bob Sutton’s pregame interview.  In that segment, Sutton put out what seemed like a standard bit of coach speak.  I don’t have his exact words, but it was to the effect that every player has to give 100% on every play because you never know which is going to be the most important play.  And as the Joker said to Vicky Vale in the original Batman movie, “I was sitting in the bath the other day when I realized…”  All right.  He finished with “why I am destined for greatness,” and this is far less psychopathically delicious.  But it’s still a personal epiphany.  A Road to Damascus, scales falling from my eyes moment.  That random statement percolating with everything I’ve seen of Bob Sutton’s defenses and this game in particular produced a moment of clarity.  I think I finally see what Bob Sutton has been doing all this time and why the results have been, well, what they are.  I’ve been torn about this defense for years.  Sometimes it has looked  like the second coming of the Steel Curtain.  Other times it has looked like a high school team could shred it.  And just to make the picture more murky there are certain players who have thrived with Sutton but tanked with other teams.  The most obvious of these is Marcus Peters, but Jaye Howard and others come to mind as well.  So what can reconcile all of this?

Bob’s (Hey, Mr. Sutton, is it okay if I call you Bob?  Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to step on your grass–okay, how about now?  Yeah?  Cool!)

Now that that’s out of the way, Bob’s apologists point to his record of having very good scoring defenses in the past.  They also point to high rankings in quarterback sacks and pressures and turnovers.  These are all good things and are generally considered desirable qualities in a defense.  After all, the iconically pithy Bill Parcells responded to a reporter’s question about the most important defensive statistic with, “Points allowed.”  And all of us who have watched every snap of every Chiefs game for the last few decades can agree that Bob had some utterly dominant games.  Last Saturday against the Colts, for instance.  Or against the Bengals in Week 7.  Or the last time the Patriots visited Arrowhead.  And by the way, why the bloody hell do the Chiefs have to go to New England for the third year in a row next year?  Yeah, I know, it’s the formula, but it’s anomalies like this that feed the conspiracy theories.

Anyway…

His detractors point to consistently poor yardage rankings (top 10 in 2014 & 2015, otherwise not higher than 23rd), abysmal run defense, and general inability to get off the field.  And then, of course, there are the meltdowns.  Our buddy Bob owns two of the five biggest defensive collapses in NFL history withing a span of five years.  He is the only defensive coordinator to have been on the losing side when his team scored 50 or more points.  And this week he became the second defensive coordinator (out of 66 attempts) to lose a playoff game in which his team scored over 30 points and didn’t commit a turnover.  So yeah, Bob’s defenses look solid or putrid depending on your perspective.  But why?  How can a defensive scheme that really hasn’t changed much in the last six years generate so much controversy for the entire span of its existence?

Actually, it’s pretty simple.  Bob was a gambler who plays the percentages.  Football is hard, especially at this level.  Every successful offensive play requires multiple players executing their assignments in a maelstrom of flying 300 lb. bodies.  So the more plays are run, the greater the likelihood that at least one of those players will screw up.  A lineman doesn’t get his feet set properly and lets Chris Jones blow by him for a sack.  A quarterback gets distracted for a quarter second and lets Daniel Sorensen jump a route for an interception.  A receiver doesn’t get a firm enough grip on the ball and Marcus Peters (remember that guy?  He’s playing in the Super Bowl this year) snatches it out of his hands.  Make the opposition run enough plays and they will eventually make mistakes.  This is the core philosophy of the “Bend, Don’t Break” defensive style.  Many defensive coordinators have built successful careers (see Crennel, Romeo) on this principle.  But Bob the Gambler raised the ante on most of them.  The talking heads talk about the chess match between offense and defense.  But Bob was playing craps.

Bob Sutton’s defenses were all about the big play.  The game changing play.  Every snap was a roll of the dice.  Every snap was a chance to make that big play.  Any snap that didn’t result in a big play doesn’t matter.  Any drive that didn’t result in a big play doesn’t matter.  Because over time, Bob counted on making enough big plays to offset those pesky touchdowns he gave up on the other drives.  And here is the strength and terrible weakness of that strategy:  It works.  But only over time.  Craps is a streaky game.  There can be runs of incredible luck interspersed with long dry periods.  In the end you may come out ahead but you have to absorb some short term losses to get there.  And when playoff time comes, the short term and the long term become one.  The margin for error shrinks into the Quantum Realm.

The other point to make about this strategy is that it relies heavily on talent differential.  Many people say that Bob’s defense was only good with multiple Pro Bowlers; others say it was only bad when the talent level fell off.  Again, both of those statements are true.  On any given snap, the chance of a big play was greater with more defensive playmakers on the field.  Conversely, the odds got worse against better offensive players. Unfortunately, as you progress through the playoffs the opposing teams get better and the odds of getting big plays get worse.  

It’s hard to look at the Chiefs’ regular season results in the Reid/Sutton era and say the defense has been a complete failure. The team has had a winning record every year and has multiple playoff appearances, including two playoff victories.  Even in 2018, the worst defensive performance of Sutton’s tenure, the Chiefs led the league in sacks and pressures.  They had some timely turnovers and a few dominant performances.  But in an individual game this strategy became exponentially more risky. Because the dice are fickle, and sometimes the splash plays don’t make up for the eight minute touchdown drives, the coverage breakdowns, or the inopportune penalties.  Which brings us back to Dee Ford and Bob’s pregame remark about never knowing which play is the most important.  The Patriots’ last drive in regulation resulted in one of the big plays that were the foundation of Bob’s defenses.  Charvarius Ward, a rookie cornerback who has looked progressively more promising over the last four weeks, intercepted a pass from the NFL’s fair haired boy Tom Brady to crush the Patriots’ souls and send the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.  But football is hard, not just on offense but on defense.  Another player, Dee Ford, screwed up on what turned out to be the biggest play.  And it was the Chiefs’ souls who were crushed, because the remaining rolls of the dice on defense did not produce another big play.  And so here we are.  

Bob stuck to his philosophy for the entire game and it came within one penalty of being enough.  Instead it turned into another playoff loss that goes in the record books.  I said it above:  Teams that score thirty or more points in the playoffs without giving up a turnover were 64-1 before January 20, 2019.  Now they are 64-2.

I do not believe Bob Sutton was incompetent.  The man knows more about football than I ever will and has built a long and relatively successful NFL career.  I think finally, after six years, I see what he has been trying to do.  I see why it produced overall good results interspersed with some epic meltdowns.  I see why there are arguments over the talent level of the defense; the more high level players on the roster, the greater the chance of a big play happening.  If the defense had been stocked with enough talent it is possible that Bob’s unit could have put together a three game run of high level play in January and February, even against the best teams in the NFL.  Even with the holes we have all seen, they were THIS close.  But Bob Sutton’s defense is boom or bust.  The Chiefs are an offense first team.  And in the salary cap era I don’t know if enough wisely allocated dollars could have been put into the defense to put them over the top with Bob in place.  Obviously the Chiefs decided it wouldn’t work. 

Bob Sutton lived by the sword and he died by the sword.  He gave us some good years but the short term risks required by his defensive philosophy ultimately proved fatal.  R.I.P.  Flowers can be sent care of ta2tony21, One Arrowhead Guys Drive.

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TNCHIEFS
TNCHIEFS

Bingo!

hatcreekcattlecmpny
hatcreekcattlecmpny

bob relied too much on his guy being better then the guy across from him. he put mediocre corners/safeties on islands for the majority of games to get picked on. when the front 4 couldnt get home he rarely schemed up pressure, whether by blitz or stunt.

for example, from a talent standpoint theres no reason NE should have gotten as much pressure as they did on mahomes in the AFCCG but whether it was cover 0 blitzes or 4 man stunts combined with physical secondary play they were able to harass him constantly, especially in the first half.

we were pretty terrible this year on defense and that was with an exceptionally talented trio of pass rushers. could you imagine how bad we would have been with Trey Flowers as our best pass rusher? hes a fine player but not someone who can just line up every down and anchor a teams pass rush.

Tyrone
Tyrone

Excellent article!

BleedingRedAndGold

I’ve said this before and been called an apologist for saying it, but I think it bears saying again. If Sutton was shafted by anything, it was Berry’s unavailability and the nature of it. Like his cancer, it’s something no one could anticipate, nor foresee the outcome with any certainty. The problem it presented was two-pronged. Prong one is that with Berry unable to play, especially during the early season, meant that his eyes and mouth on the field, the guy who was probably expected to provide OJT to the new mix of ILBs and backfielders by literally telling them what to do. Prong two was that while Berry wasn’t available, he also wasn’t out, so bringing in a free agent to replace him as Sutton’s field marshal was not an option.

But that isn’t to say Sutton shouldn’t have been fired. Andy apparently gave him one last chance to get it turned around, and while he did get shafted, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that he didn’t get it turned around, but actually regressed. So, buh-bye Bob, best wishes for your future, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Sob Button
Sob Button

Derrick Johnson was the panacea for the Chiefs on defense. I think we as fans understood that DJ was great but we never truly understood and appreciated just HOW great he was. DJ was an all time great for the chiefs who literally made that defense and Bob Sutton’s career. As an all world LB he could cover up every deficiency and was the prototype and standard-bearer for athletic LBs. Now that he’s gone the void in the middle is so great that its left a gaping chasm in our defense and exposed all other LBs that have come after him for what they are; simply good to mediocre.

alsi2
alsi2

Rumor has it that Spags was seen on campus and apparently discovered that Sutton left behind his game-planning device which was subsequently removed from the property.

<a href="Sutton-FBscheme“>

ProfChesterTQ
ProfChesterTQ

^^ THAT… I GET !!

upamtn

used to have one of those …

BleedingRedAndGold

Me, too, but a later edition, I think. Or maybe earlier, but it didn’t have the same field graphics.

ProfChesterTQ
ProfChesterTQ

Warm Fuzzies But…

comment image

ProfChesterTQ
ProfChesterTQ

NFL Defense is NOT hiding in a Deer Stand
and waiting for a 15-pt Buck to come strolling by.
If that ‘wait for it’ thinking was the strategy,
it’s no wonder Bob Sutton failed playing those ‘odds’.

Jimmy Raye loved to play those same ‘tree through the forest’ odds
offensively with his 3rd and Long HB Draws…
“it’s bound to break for a big one sooner or later,
the defense is never expecting it”–Jimmy Raye

“Just because you give an idiot a tablet that computes numbers,
it does not make them a sage statistician
…it only makes them a predictable parrot”–Socrates

saints_chiefsfan1979
saints_chiefsfan1979

I agree he was a gambler and as a result of that. this team always got a lot of turnovers. But you gotta know when to hold em and when to fold em. And 3rd and 10 is no time to get crazy. You need to get them off the field at that point and he didn’t do that enough. that is part of the reason why he is gone

upamtn

you gotta know when to hold em and when to fold em

yanno, Saints, you could make a song outta that if you tried hard enough … maybe something to do with gambling would work

SPI Chief
SPI Chief

This is a great article St. Joe! Thanks for your explanation, and I couldn’t agree more. His plan was set up to be boom or bust, but that’s why I didn’t understand the lack of aggression. When he was playing a basic cover 2 all three of those last 3rd/10 downs we gave up where was our chance to make the big play? That is where his philosophy failed in my opinion. No roll of the dice, no aggression. Thanks again for this great article.

upamtn

absolutely one of the best, most level-headed fanposts I’ve ever seen about Sutton, the Defense and/or the Chiefs in general … I’m with Tony: not at all sure it was “all Bob’s fault” … that said, the past is past and now the team moves on with Spags

hopefully the Defense will be better in 2019 … we shall see what we see

venturachief
venturachief

Good riddance to Bob. He cost us a chance to watch the Chiefs in the SB. His defense was passionless. Watch the good defenses fly to the ball as a team and punish the ball carrier. Not the Chiefs….lots of standing around and watching other guys tackle. His defenses were soft and unaggressive. He was stubborn and rarely made in game adjustments. Reid forced him to give the young guys a shot or we would of still been watching Parker and Scandrick. He was a joke that should have been fired last year. I love Reid but he needed to put the team above personal loyalty.

Falco16
Falco16

One thing Spags is going to have to do is find an on the field leader. Besides just the literal playmaking the leadership we lost with DJ and even Hali (to a lesser extent) wasn’t replaced.

Houston IMO has never been a great leader, and Berry wasn’t on the field. So that has to be addressed.

NHChiefsfan
NHChiefsfan

We need to find a Ray Lewis type of guy. A fiery leader who fires up the whole Defense.

Falco16
Falco16

Without the accessory to murder thing preferably.

venturachief
venturachief

picky, picky, picky

alsi2
alsi2

Not to be too casual about the value of human life, but just curious, did it involve Belichick?

Texas Chief
Texas Chief

But that’s what gave him the cred on the field.
No one wanted to challenge his gap, cause they might get stabbed outside the club after the game.

alsi2
alsi2

“better cred than dead”

BigBill
BigBill

Could just pay him to roam around on the sidelines and fire up people. Ya know, if I had a guy tell me that he’d off me if I screwed up, I’d damn sure not make any mistakes.

ProfChesterTQ
ProfChesterTQ

DoD is that player (20lbs lighter)

BigBill
BigBill

Absolutely need a leader on the D.

venturachief
venturachief

I hope Spags is the right guy. My initial take was that he was a retread and I wasn’t happy. But to be honest, I just don’t know enough to have strong feeling one way or another. Just wish I had more faith in Reid to hire the right guy. I hope they considered lots of options and Spags won out for reasons other than he was Reid’s friend. I do know he can’t be worse than Sutton so that’s something.

Leaf
Leaf

At first the hire bugged me because it’s so meh. I’m starting to warm up to it because he does have legitimate excuses for the times he wasn’t very good. That being said, I fear my growing optimism isn’t me blinding myself to his faults just because I want this to work.

Texas Chief
Texas Chief

speaking of berry not being on the field (for the vast majority of 2 consecutive seasons) …..
…..why am I not reading an article about Berry going in for surgery on that heel?
Please, dear lord, don’t tell me that Berry is going to ‘wait it out’ until training camp and then go in for the surgery.

He needed to be in the operating room 14 seconds after the AFC Championship game was over. Needs all the recovery time he can get before next season starts

BigBill
BigBill

^Totally agree. Surgery should have been done and rehab should have been started or at least have a starting date for rehab set by now. He’d be ready by OTAs if he’d have the surgery now.

workingmansdead

Yep, this is a concern. I’ve lost all faith in this staff and this player to make the right decisions.

BigBill
BigBill

I would think that since he’s been in a lot pain with the bone spur that he’d want surgery as soon as possible to get the spur removed and thus end the pain. Maybe since the achilles has to be detached to remove the spur, he’s worried about achilles rehab? Might have had a rough time with rehabbing the ruptured achilles last year?

Leaf
Leaf

Technically he could have done it but just hasn’t talked about it. It’s not like he had to disclose when he goes on for surgery. And this wouldn’t be the first time a player has had surgery and its fans don’t know about it until long afterwards.

Falco16
Falco16

#FireKuMed

Falco16
Falco16

How in the hell is this not green? The man has raised a valid concern.

upamtn

NFL players making hundreds of thousands a year – and yes, sometimes millions of dollars – should really be more than able to find their own motivation, their own fire, their own aggression

Leaf
Leaf

Should, but life doesn’t work that way.

SuperMegaChief
SuperMegaChief

They should but that’s not really how human beings work.

BigBill
BigBill

As an athlete they should have an intrinsic desire to win. I’m very competitive regardless of the prize; never understood why some players are content with mediocrity. If these guys play really well they’re going to get bigger paychecks so there’s extrinsic motivation. Some people aren’t motivated by anything I guess. I hear Oakland is a good place for unmotivated people.

Falco16
Falco16

It’s the baseline of Bob that is the problem. The slow to adjust. Took way too long to adjust is the problem. Example the lack of adjustment to what should have been obvious (stop the run) vs NE.
The repetitive nature of doing the same thing on 3rd down and watching every single one get converted on.
Colin Cowherd wants to say Dee Ford got Bob fired.
As if vs Tennessee didn’t happen just a year prior.
I don’t blame the defense for the loss to Pittsburgh and 280 yards rushing to Bell doesn’t bother me we couldn’t beat 18 points. I blame him for Houston being on Brown 70 yards down field and Houston having to chase the same Brown all the way across the field on yet another 3rd and long that was converted.
Bob’s over all bend and don’t break I can live with. His year over year consistant failures on 3rd and long I can’t live with.
When the opponents the week of the game are laughing at your predictably and then show how they were right come Sunday there is major issues.
I’ll say it again I was ok with not firing Bob prior to this year. I had convinced myself that he could A) show that with Berry back he had everything under control or B) Prove he could adjust to having a defense without Berry.
He didn’t get Berry, and he proved that what ever he was doing wasn’t working. Maybe with Berry and being full strength it could have worked. Maybe he still would have crashed and burned.
He’s gone and it was time. Past time.

wvchiefsfan
wvchiefsfan

Good read. I really enjoyed that.

Chiefsfan115
Chiefsfan115

I will never cheer for Dee Ford again. Not only did he not realize he was lined up offsides, he used the excuse that the refs normally tell him when he’s offsides. He’s a professional football player and he needs someone to tell him whether he’s lined up offsides?

It doesn’t matter who the DC is you can’t fix stupid.

KC_SunDevil
KC_SunDevil

Not sure Ford started the conversation about the warning. Don’t remember it that way. But you may have your anger if it makes you feel better.

Me? I make mistakes. Lots of them. Because that’s the price of pushing the envelope to make things happen. So I don’t expect perfection from others. In fact I support errors of commission

Panzer85
Panzer85

I’m angry, too, but mostly because we likely won’t see Ford continue to step his game up for KC and will probably do it for someone else. Hopefully, whoever he plays for (unless it’s US) doesn’t end up in the Superbowl. Not that Peters has must to do with the Ram’s success, but it’s still a b!@&#.

NovaChiefs
NovaChiefs

I’ll bet he’s here next year. Sounds like he wants to be & the tag is an option he apparently is willing to do

Texas Chief
Texas Chief

Im operating under the assumption that Ford and Jones stay, but Houston, Bailey, and Williams are gone.

Leaf
Leaf

I don’t know. I can see all of them returning. Ford is the easiest to get rid of. Bailey and Williams should be fairly cheap, Houston is too expensive to cut. Sure it can be done, but it isn’t the best financial move.

Texas Chief
Texas Chief

Better to take the hit on Houston in the final year (year 3) before Mahomes’ agent starts looking for that $200M contract.
If we wait til the next year….that hit hurts a lot more.

NovaChiefs
NovaChiefs

Man, I hope in your profession you never do anything stupid. Most of us have. Most of us also realize that, As Andy Reid told him, they all could have been 4 inches better.
Did you notice that the tackle he likely gauged things by was lined up illegally, too? No? Big surprise.

Falco16
Falco16

You’re right in the fact that Ford made a mistake one that he’s made several times and one that happens to the best of psss rushers. If the ball wouldn’t have been intercepted on that play we’d not really have too much reason to have ire towards Ford.

I disagree that the LT being lined up even if crazy far back should factor. Dee has a responsibility to look at the ball. He obviously didn’t. I’ve seen more false starts by OTs this year then I ever remember so the refs all year have been letting OLines get away with crap. If Ford would have used that as reasoning he would have been roasted. Sorry it’s a bad argument.

Same as a WR that shifts has a responsibility to look at the ball and also look to ensure he is legal inreguards to the tackle and not covering another eligible receiver.

upamtn

first, the refs generally DO give a warning … secondly, the Pats offensive lineman was lined up way off the line of scrimmage … he should have been called for that as much as Ford was called offsides

also, just so you know: those nice, blue “Line of Scrimmage” lines that you see on your TV aren’t actually on the field when they play the game, so Ford didn’t have that particular luxury … yeah, his hand was maybe 2″ over

and if it’s so easy, you do it

Leaf
Leaf

The sad thing is, is that if the tackle had been called for illegal formation, it would have been offsetting penalties and the interception would still not count.

Fire_FG_the_moron
Fire_FG_the_moron

I am tired of the blame game, just like I am tired of the excuses. They win as a team and lose as a team. We can assign blame all we want, but what purpose does it serve? Ford was offside and it was called. The referee may or may not have been in Brady’s pocket. Cant prove anything. They lost. Lets stop the fighting over it and start on next year now, so we’re that much further ahead come September.

Panzer85
Panzer85

Is September here yet!? 😥💨

upamtn

close

NovaChiefs
NovaChiefs

Thank you. Team game, team success, team failure. It’s simple.
Get more than 32 yards in the first half & score any points in that half. Stop them on 3 & 10 just ONCE on that last drive. Adjust to what their offense is doing. Do just one of those things, and we are all looking for tickets to Atlanta.

Falco16
Falco16

Yep the Chiefs got out played at times and they got out coached. Andy in the first half and Bob most of the game.

Falco16
Falco16

Tony did prove it.

pompano
pompano

But what do I bitch about until Sept??

Falco16
Falco16

The fact it’s not September? That’s reason enough?

venturachief
venturachief

Veach’s draft picks?

Texas Chief
Texas Chief

The idiotic term “Unsweet Tea” is my fall back

pompano
pompano

My friend asked me if I wanted a frozen banana, I said “No, but I want a regular banana later, so … yeah”.

RDD India
RDD India

Any defense that depends exclusively on turnovers to make defensive contribution to a win, is going to make heartbreaking losses at clutch times. Add elite talent to produce results as pre-requsite, is a disaster waiting to happen. Break but dont bend is not defensive philosophy, its just an loony fantasy. Can’t wait for others to make mistakes to win in today’s NFL. Too many smart and evil hoody’s out there. Glad Bob’s out.

KC_SunDevil
KC_SunDevil

Nice epiphany it really adds clarity

The one thing i’d highlight is that his defenses passively waited for the mistake. I don’t mind the gambler’s mentality but you can make your own luck if you aggressively generate the mistake.

KC_SunDevil
KC_SunDevil

PS could we add the Chiefs’ Let’s Roll graphic to the cover photo?

And maybe Rodin’s The Thinker for the ‘crapped out’ theme?

chief_curmudgeon
chief_curmudgeon

“Turnovers” are different than “Takeaways.” Even crappy passive defenses get turnovers.

NHChiefsfan
NHChiefsfan

Exactly.