Chiefs finding defensive coordinator Sutton was worth the wait

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If Bob Sutton had never become the defensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, it wasn’t going to be for a lack of trying. When Herm Edwards was head coach of the Chiefs, he unsuccessfully tried to hire Sutton away from the New York Jets.

Andy Reid made it his annual quest when he coached the Philadelphia Eagles to make Sutton a part of his staff.

“Andy Reid tried to get him every single year,’’ Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “He would call and try to get him and I’m like, ‘No I’m not letting you, not letting you have him’ and things like that.

“I never wanted to lose Bob. Obviously, he was my assistant head coach and everything, but it was the best thing for Bob and his career to get an opportunity to be a coordinator, and I knew the kind of coach he is. He’s a great coach and a great person.”

When he joined the Chiefs last year, Reid finally pried Sutton away from the Jets. It’s looking like Sutton was worth the wait.

The Chiefs, in Sutton’s second season as coordinator, are third in the league in total defense and points allowed and first in passing defense. This is happening despite the fact the Chiefs have played almost all of the season without four starters, including a pair of Pro Bowlers, linebacker Derrick Johnson and safety Eric Berry.

The Chiefs had a dominant defense for the first half of last season as well. They were on an NFL record pace for sacks and were forcing turnovers in bunches. But the Chiefs ran out of gas in the second half. They allowed a lot of big pass plays, a lot of points and eventually wasted a 28-point third-quarter lead in losing to the Indianapolis Colts 45-44.

What the Chiefs are doing now looks to be sustainable. They’re still sacking the quarterback with frequency, but not at the expense of allowing big plays. They’re a lot more solid defensively, something San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers noted before the Chargers’ game against the Chiefs two weeks ago.

For that, the Chiefs can thank the 63-year-old Sutton, a longtime college assistant and nine-year head coach at Army before he joined the staff of the Jets in 2000. He was an assistant to Ryan and much of what the Chiefs are doing defensively, he adopted from Ryan.

“It’s a lot of what we did in New York and what Rex brought to New York from Baltimore,’’ Sutton said. “I think each system goes off a little bit on its own as you get to a place, a lot of time it’s driven by either what you’re faced with and also what your personnel can do. We always think about this system that it has a lot of flexibility. We can play a lot of different ways, and I think that’s one of the real strengths of the system. You kind of push it over to one side or the other based on your players or the issues that you’re facing from the opponent. But a lot of it honestly is driven from what we did in New York.”

The Chiefs are certainly playing it better now than the 1-7 Jets.