Bob Sutton

Jim Leonhard, Others In Contention For Packers’ DC Job

The Packers are conducting an expansive search to replace Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator. Several more names joined the early wave of candidates.

Former Chiefs DC Bob Sutton interviewed for the position recently, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, who adds five other new candidates emerged on Green Bay’s radar as well. This comes after news of the Packers interviewing former Seahawks DC Kris Richard, Chargers passing-game coordinator Joe Barry, Washington secondary coach Chris Harris and Rams safeties coach Ejiro Evero. Richard and Sutton have since lined up positions with the Saints and Jaguars, respectively. Perhaps a sign about the direction the Packers’ search has taken.

Ten-year NFL safety-turned-Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard, former Dolphins DC Matt Burke, Browns defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, Saints D-line coach Ryan Nielsen and Packers secondary coach Jerry Gray either have interviewed for the position or will do so by Wednesday, per Demovsky.

Leonhard, whose NFL playing career wrapped up after the 2014 season, has not coached at the NFL level. But he has been the Badgers’ DC since 2017. Three times in the past four seasons, Wisconsin has deployed a top-10 scoring defense in Division I-FBS. Although Leonhard’s nomadic career did not include a Packers stop, the 38-year-old is a Wisconsin native.

Gray served as the Titans’ DC from 2011-13, spent the next six seasons as Vikings secondary coach and signed on as Packers secondary coach last season. The former NFL cornerback has been an assistant in the league since the late 1990s. Kiffin spent 2020 with the Browns but worked with Matt LaFleur‘s brother Mike with the 49ers previously. Burke oversaw the Dolphins’ defense from 2017-18 and was with the Eagles during the past two seasons, while Nielsen has spent the past four seasons as New Orleans’ D-line coach.

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Jaguars Plan To Hire Bob Sutton

Shortly after making Joe Cullen a first-time NFL defensive coordinator, the Jaguars are bringing in some experience to work with him. They are finalizing a deal to add Bob Sutton to their defensive staff, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets.

Sutton, 70, spent the past two seasons as a senior defensive assistant with the Falcons. He stands to serve in a similar capacity in Jacksonville, per JLC. Sutton has been in coaching since the early 1970s and on NFL staffs since 2000. He recently interviewed for the Packers’ defensive coordinator position.

Best known for his six-year stay as Chiefs defensive coordinator, Sutton spent his first 13 NFL seasons with the Jets. The Jets also employed Sutton as DC during Eric Mangini‘s tenure, from 2006-08, and Rex Ryan kept him on board as a position coach during his run as Gang Green’s HC. New Jags hire Brian Schottenheimer worked with Sutton in New York for several seasons.

Sutton’s first four Chiefs defenses ranked as top-10 scoring units, helping Andy Reid quickly turn the franchise around in the mid-2010s. However, the Chiefs saw their defense regress significantly as Sutton’s tenure waned. Their 2018 defense played the lead role in keeping MVP Patrick Mahomes from reaching the Super Bowl that season, with the Chiefs leading the league in total offense and ranking 31st in yards allowed.

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Falcons Hire Bob Sutton

The Falcons have hired former Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton as a senior assistant, the club announced today.

Atlanta fired DC Marquand Manuel earlier this offseason but doesn’t plan on hiring a new coordinator to replace him. Instead, head coach Dan Quinn will call defensive plays going forward. Sutton, who was relieved of his Kansas City duties following the Chiefs’ AFC Championship Game loss, will handle “in-game strategy, clock management, time-out usage and replay review,” per the Falcons’ press release.

Indeed, Sutton appears to be taking over game day responsibilities that were originally intended for Kyle Flood, Atlanta’s former assistant offensive line coach. Flood was supposed to be tasked with assisting Quinn with in-game management, but he’s since departed for Alabama’s offensive line coach job. Sutton, 68, is a former collegiate head coach at Army and has held multiple DC jobs in the NFL, so he’ll offer another set of eyes and ears for Quinn.

If Quinn at any point during the 2019 season decides to give up-play calling, Sutton would become a logical candidate to take over those obligations. The only other coach on the Falcons’ staff with defensive play-calling experience is Raheem Morris, and he’s been coaching on the offensive side of the ball since 2016.

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Chiefs Fire DC Bob Sutton

The Chiefs fired defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, according to a team announcement. Sutton was rumored to be on the hot seat after the Chiefs’ heartbreaking exit in the AFC Championship Game. 

One can’t help but wonder whether Sutton would still be in charge if Dee Ford hadn’t accidentally lined up in the neutral zone prior to the Patriots’ snap. In any event, Sutton is out, and the team’s overall inconsistent defense this past season is the main reason for his ouster.

Bob is a good football coach and a great person,” head coach Andy Reid said in a statement. “He played an integral role in the success of our team over the last six seasons. I’ve said before that change can be a good thing, for both parties, and I believe that is the case here for the Chiefs and Bob. This was not an easy decision, but one I feel is in the best interest of the Kansas City Chiefs moving forward.”

Despite the Chiefs’ defensive struggles in 2018, the gig is viewed as one of the most valued defensive jobs in the game. With a world-class offense, the Chiefs should be right back in the Super Bowl mix in 2019, and the continued health of star safety Eric Berry should go a long way towards helping the cause.

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Chiefs Weighing Defensive Staff Changes

The Chiefs scored 24 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s AFC championship game but still could not beat a Patriots team that had dropped five road contests this season. A day later, they are discussing potential staff changes.

The team is weighing whether or not to shake up its defensive staff, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (video link), adding these conversations include defensive coordinator Bob Sutton‘s position.

Kansas City tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks but was unable to pressure Tom Brady, and Monday’s discussions involve possible issues making proper adjustments. Andy Reid said Monday the Chiefs are evaluating all aspects of their team, but Garafolo stresses the most scrutinized facet in these evaluations is the defensive staff.

Production getting to the quarterback notwithstanding, the Chiefs ranked 31st in pass defense this season. On Sunday, they allowed the Patriots to convert 13 of 19 third downs in a game that featured 524 New England yards. The Chiefs, who featured one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history (No. 3 all time in points with 565), gave up more than 500 yards on four occasions this season.

Sutton has been Kansas City’s DC since Reid arrived in 2013; his past three units have ranked in the bottom third in total defense. Though, the Sutton-era Chiefs have bent more than they’ve broken in that span, with the team being better at deterring points than yardage. This season ended with 37 points allowed — the fifth time this defense yielded at least 37 points — and the Patriots’ final drive prevented Patrick Mahomes from seeing the field after the overtime coin toss. This came after Dee Ford‘s neutral-zone infraction nullified a likely game-clinching interception.

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Chiefs To Retain Bob Sutton

Plenty of teams have ousted their defensive coordinators this offseason, but the Chiefs won’t be joining them. This week, head coach Andy Reid confirmed that Bob Sutton will remain stay on as the team’s DC in 2018. Bob Sutton (vertical)

[RELATED: Darrelle Revis Wants To Play In 2018]

There’s nothing going on there,” Reid said when asked directly if Sutton will return (via Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star). “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.”

Sutton has been the Chiefs’ DC since 2013. In the last five years, the play of the defense has fluctuated quite a bit. the Chiefs had the No. 7 defense in the NFL in both 2014 and 2015, but they slid back into the bottom third of the league over the past two seasons. Last year, the Chiefs finished 28th in total defense, leading many to point the finger at Sutton.

Of course, it’s not really fair to blame it all on Sutton given the rash of injuries the Chiefs had in 2018, including maladies suffered by safety Eric Berry and edge rusher Dee Ford. The team is also probably looking to maintain some continuity after losing offensive coordinator Matt Nagy to the Bears.

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West Notes: Sutton, Chiefs, Rams

Let’s check in on a few Wednesday links from around the NFL’s two West divisions….

  • Jets head coach Rex Ryan told reporters, including Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter), that he hopes Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton gets a head coaching job, but added, “I hope it’s not mine.”
  • The Chiefs took a look at a handful of free agent defenders this week, says Howard Balzer of The SportsXchange (via Twitter). Per Balzer, linebackers Brandon Denmark, Kevin Reddick, D.J. Smith, and Uani Unga, as well as defensive end Tim Fugger, all worked out for the club.
  • The Rams brought in offensive tackles Mitchell Van Dyk and Jason Weaver for tryouts this week, according to Balzer (via Twitter).
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Louis Riddick examines several extension candidates who should be in line for big contracts soon, either from their own teams or in free agency. Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas tops the list, with Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson among the other players earning mentions.
  • Earlier tonight, I asked if the Seahawks and 49ers, who entered the year as favorites to come out of the NFC, will even earn playoff spots this season.

Zach Links contributed to this post.