The man who was and then wasn’t and now is the Kansas City Chiefs linebackers coach stood outside the practice field on a sunny afternoon last week, impassive and rather expressionless in his first meeting with local media.
Don’t let it fool you, his players say. It’s a departure from the way he had spent the previous couple of hours. In his initial spring with the Chiefs, Matt House is spirited and even loud at times, shouting instructions during organized team activities. This is the man his players, past and present, have come to know.
“Fiery. Energetic,” new Chiefs linebacker Darron Lee described House. “I love the way he coaches. He pushes you every single day. Helps you for sure in the meeting room, but (he) definitely pushes you out there on the field.”
The move to Kansas City offered drama. House reportedly had agreed to leave his post as the Kentucky defensive coordinator before the school announced a day later that he would stay with the Wildcats. A couple of more days later, House was officially announced as the Chiefs linebackers coach, the NFL franchise paying a buyout to open the opportunity.
It made for a confusing, back-and-forth 96 hours. But his reasoning for the final destination was just the opposite.
“You’ve got an opportunity to work for a great organization (and) work for an established, future Hall of Fame head coach (and) work for a defensive coordinator that you’re familiar with and you believe in what he does,” House said. “And the opportunity to win a Super Bowl.”
House led the Kentucky defense for two seasons. The program ranked 23rd in in the nation in total defense, its group headlined by first-round pick Josh Allen.
He’s already had a bit of success in his new home state. In an SEC matchup last October, the Wildcats stymied the Missouri Tigers’ spread offense, holding them without a first down in the second half. Kentucky departed Columbia with a last-second victory.
Just as his new linebacker did, former players from Kentucky described his coaching technique as particularly lively and hands-on.
“I just demand the best out of people,” House said. “I don’t know — I think that’s just kind of my personality.”
House downplayed the leap from Division I college football to the NFL — “Football is football at the end of the day,” he said.
Beside, this isn’t his first taste of the league.
The House resume includes several stops. A native of Michigan, he began his career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Michigan State, his alma mater. The NFL dream arrived in 2009 with the Carolina Panthers. There are college stops in North Carolina, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Florida International mixed in, in addition to the most recent stint at Kentucky.
The longest job he’s held has been three seasons — as a defensive assistant for the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11. His boss there? Steve Spagnuolo, the Chiefs’ new defensive coordinator.
“Just having been with Spags before, knowing not only his scheme but also what his expectations are, it helps because then you can communicate it better to the players,” House said. “I think there’s still natural growing pains, but there’s less growing pains than if everybody’s new.”