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Q&A with Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton

Posted Jan 17, 2013

Q: Hey Bob, how are you doing?

SUTTON: “Doing excellent. Just trying to get settled in and become familiar with all the players and get settled in as a staff as we get ready to move forward. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Q: What have you seen as far as talent that’s already here on the defensive side of the ball?

SUTTON: “Yeah, really this week, I just got in here at the beginning of the week, really Tuesday, so I’ve been sitting here the last couple days trying to go through the players and of course you know Gary Gibbs and Emmitt Thomas have been here so we kind of worked our way through the DBs and linebackers a little bit – haven’t gotten through them all by any stretch – but just kind of becoming familiar with them. I think we’ve got some pieces in place and really, honestly no different than any of the other 31 teams, we probably have some areas that we probably have to try to improve on. But I think first, trying to learn our guys and then you sit down with the coaches and kind of go through the system we want to put together I think we’ll have a better understanding of our talent. And also, I think maybe one of the most important things in coaching is to figure out, really know who you are and not who you want to be. And there’s a difference there. We’ve got to take advantage of the talent in place and try to use that as really the starting point of this whole thing. I think any system, you don’t have to jump a system, but you have to slant it or tilt it or move it in the direction of your strengths. So that’s what we’re doing right now. I don’t know if I can give you a definitive answer on all the players, but obviously we have some very good football players over on the defensive side of the ball. I’m excited about that from a starting point and I just really have to learn them more and talk with the coaches and try to figure out how we can best use these players and their talents.”

Q: How different do you envision your defense being from what they’ve been running around here the last couple years?

SUTTON: “Well, honestly, I think that the transition is going to be kind of similar to one that I went through when I was with the Jets. We were in the exact same defense that they played here the last couple years under Romeo [Crennel], it’s a great system of defense – the true 3-4 – and then when Rex [Ryan] came into the Jets, which has many similarities to this but it has a little bit more multiple and was different schematically how we line up. But a lot of principles to me stayed the same. The approach of how our up-front players attack blockers and that type of thing, I think the system, and again we’re in the early stages of this – I’m not going to get tied to anything – but the way I envision it and in speaking to Coach [Andy] Reid when I came in here, we’re trying to incorporate many of the things we did in New York. Again, it’s got to be tailored a little bit to the personnel here. But I think the transition will be good because it’s 3-4 based but it has a little bit more multiple than what I had done in New York before or the same that Romeo had run here. It will be a great starting point, a great jumping off point because a lot of the players have the characteristics that we’re looking for and we might just move it in a little bit different direction.”

Q: You inherit three Pro Bowl players. That gives you a pretty good nucleus?

SUTTON: “Yeah, that’s what I said. We’ve got some good football players here and guys that have played well over a couple years. This was I think a good group, just from what I’ve seen. Played hard. Were physical. Those two attributes are ones that everybody in our league wants to have when you’re coaching on defense. If you’ll be physical and tough-minded and play with a great amount of energy and pride, that’s going to serve you well for a long time. Those parts are here I think, so that’s encouraging and exciting for myself and the guys here on the staff.”

Q: Can you talk about the staff as a whole, the familiarity that you have with some, and what kind of group is this?

SUTTON: “I think it’s really a good group of guys defensively. I’ve known Gary Gibbs for – I don’t know if I can put a number on it – but for a long time, since we were assistants at Oklahoma and Army and we’ve crossed paths. We ended up coming into the NFL, I think I might have come in one year before Gary, but we’ve stayed close. We have similar approaches to teaching and things we like to do schematically. That was a great benefit for me, having someone – I’ve never worked with Gary – but I have the utmost respect and like I said, we’ve spent a lot time sharing thoughts over the years and things we’ve studied together. So I felt very good about that. I didn’t know Emmitt [Thomas] personally, but I knew him through Gary and I knew he held him in such high regard. This was way before I got involved in the job, and just as we talked about guys, my time in the interview, I spent a lot of time with Emmitt and I think he’s an outstanding individual and obviously has been a great coach in our league for forever. Then Tommy Brasher, our defensive line guy, I didn’t know him but I know when I came in and I know him from his work because as coaches we always study each other and we’ve seen a lot of Philadelphia film over the years I’ve been in the NFL. They’ve always had great d-line play in his time there. And of course, Andy [Reid] held him in such high regard that I was excited. We’ve got a really experienced group of guys. Like I say, these guys have broke a lot of huddles in their day and that’s a great comfort to me because I’m going to be able to count on these guys to not only coach their positions but contribute to the big picture. And ultimately that’s what we want. This is the Kansas City Chiefs defense and we are all parts of this – we all just have different roles and titles – but in the end we’re all equally invested in this process.”

Q: The Jets sack numbers have been spread around. Is that by design or is that because you really didn’t have a set of pressure guys like Tamba Hali and Justin Houston?

SUTTON: “I think it is a reflection of a lot of things. Certainly the two fellas you just mentioned, Tamba and Justin, are really exciting guys coming off the edge. One of the things I think is very important and one of the things I learned from Rex is that the ultimate thing is that it’s great to have sacks, but the key thing is to hit the quarterback. You’re really trying to affect the quarterback and not let him feel comfortable, so we did the things you’re talking about. A lot of the time ours came through pressure or simulated pressure. The bottom line is we don’t want that guy standing back there and feeling really comfortable. Sometimes, like I said, it can be assumed pressure by him. Other times it’s real pressure. We want to keep working that, and I think here we’re fortunate to have two guys that Gary and these guys did a great job with. They’ve been productive, so the way that I would envision that is that would just add to some of the things we did in New York. You can mix it up even when you’re pressuring. We’re not talking about selling the farm on every play or anything, but when you pressure, you still get blocked and you need guys that can beat blocks individually. And that was kind of our way of approaching it in New York. It’d be great if we just had a free runner in a sense that they don’t block him and he gets a free shot, but that doesn’t happen that often. What you need is whether it’s coming through pressure or unconventional means to get there, you still need people to defeat a blocker and get to that quarterback. As you mentioned, we have two guys that have proven that they are capable of doing that.”

Q: You’ve worked for a couple of legends. Are there any lessons that you learned from Bo Schembechler that you still use?

SUTTON: “There is no question. I’ve often said the most fortunate thing that happened to me in coaching was serving on his staff as a graduate assistant because as a young coach, you take things in and everything. The influence that certainly Bo and many of his assistant coaches had on me was incredible. My first three or four jobs, I ended up working for people all off of that staff. The approach stayed the same, and the biggest thing that you take if you’re around Bo Schembechler is that the single most important thing is the team. It’s about the team, the team, the team. You can’t be part of that without understanding that. Everything else was secondary to that. That’s one of the things that I think I’ve taken out of there. I think the other thing is you have to be willing to really work diligently as a coach. You’re responsible to get your players to play. He’d say, ‘Hey, players are a reflection of their coaches.’ You have to coach them in a certain manner that you want done, and I think that’s huge. As a young person, as a young coach, I couldn’t imagine a better experience than that.”

Q: What’d you learn from Monte Kiffin?

SUTTON: “Monte Kiffin. Monte is in our terms, you’d say Monte Kiffin is the ultimate ball coach. He loves football. Monte Kiffin is going to want to know what foot do you want up? What hand will strike? And he can talk about that for hours. He loves football. I spoke to him a couple days ago, and I told somebody the other day, I think he’s turning 73 here in February, but when I picked up the phone I thought I was back at North Carolina State back in 1982 and nothing had changed. He had the same energy, the same excitement. This guy loves football. When you’re with Monte, you’re going to be talking ball. I love that. That was a great experience as well. His energy and enthusiasm for the game is really something special.”

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