After the Chiefs ended the 2017 season with another frustrating playoff loss — a 22-21 home defeat to Tennessee in the Wild Card Round — there was no shortage of blame.
One of the most prominent goats, at least in the eyes of some, was defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, whose defense blew an 18-point second-half lead against the Titans and has surrendered an average of 186 rushing yards in the Chiefs’ last two playoff games, both losses.
But on Wednesday at the Senior Bowl, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he plans to keep Sutton in his role for the 2018 season.
“There’s nothing going on there,” Reid said when asked directly if Sutton will return as defensive coordinator. “I know everybody has their opinion on everything, just like they did when they wanted me to bench Alex (Smith). That turned out pretty good.
“So (replacing Sutton) is not where I’m at or have ever been. I don’t listen to any of that. I do what I think is right for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
Since Sutton arrived in Kansas City with Reid in 2013, the Chiefs have ranked 24th, seventh, seventh, 24th and 28th in total defense. In 2017, they also ranked 29th in pass defense and 25th in rushing defense.
Key injuries affected defensive production this season (including team leader Eric Berry and 2016 sack- and pressure-leader Dee Ford), and Reid has long made a habit of attributing the team’s shortcomings to the whole, rather than one individual.
But with the scheme expected to generally remain unchanged, that also means Sutton and his position coaches are responsible to keep teaching in hopes of a better result in 2018.
“I think overall as a team, we’ve got to get better in some areas,” Reid said. “There are a lot of good things I thought we did this year in a lot of areas, but again we can step it up in all phases.”
Reid’s reluctance to single out one person for the defense’s struggles is consistent with his general ethos as a coach, as he’s known for giving his coordinators a long leash. He only had three defensive coordinators during his 14-year stint in Philadelphia, and Reid’s Chiefs staff has featured little turnover since he arrived in 2013 (aside from former offensive coordinators Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy, who both left the last few years to become head coaches).
The retention of the coaching staff has led to a continuity that Reid is banking on to help out a defense that must be better in 2018 if the Chiefs — who are 53-27 under Reid with back-to-back AFC West titles — are going to improve on their 1-4 playoff record during the same timeframe.
“That (continuity) is why we’ve been successful the last five years,” Reid said. “We just need to take it up a couple notches.”
That said, Reid indicated general manager Brett Veach will do his part this offseason by adding additional talent and fortifying the depth.
“We’ll have an influx of new guys coming in like normal,” Reid said. “There’s a lot that goes into those decisions, and in getting better. There’s … a lot of work that takes place in the offseason.”