Despite the Chiefs’ roster being in a mini rebuild this offseason, the coaching staff remains largely untouched. Mike Kafka left the offensive staff to become the Giants’ offensive coordinator. Matt Nagy was then brought back into the fold as a QB’s coach. Joe Cullen was brought in to be the new defensive line coach and Brendan Daly was moved to linebacker coach after Matt House left for LSU. The head coach and both coordinator positions remain unchanged.
While the offense ranked third overall, the defense was once again a weakness for the Chiefs in 2021. The defense did rank 8th in fewest points allowed and 5th in takeaways but allowed the 6th most yards in the entire league. While the Chiefs did rank higher in QB pressures, they failed to finish the job falling to 29th in total sacks. The defense had some issues getting off the field. The most telling stat is that the Chiefs were dead last in yards allowed after the catch. Click here to look at the stats yourself.
Overall the defense had its ups and downs last season, but they weren’t the cause of the loss in the AFC Championship game. Steve Spagnuolo has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt and deserves at least another year as the defensive coordinator. However, is it possible that this year is make-or-break for the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator?
Is The Chiefs’ Defensive Coordinator On The Hot Seat?
It’s fair to say that there will be some hiccups in the Chiefs’ defense in 2022. Tyrann Mathieu, Charvarius Ward, Mike Hughes, Daniel Sorensen, Anthony Hitchens, and Melvin Ingram are just a few of the names of players who played significant snaps that won’t be returning this year. The Chiefs drafted seven defensive players, and Justin Reid was their top free agency target. There could be as many as seven new starters lining up on the defense next season.
Spagnuolo is also known for his defenses having slow starts to the season. The defense this year should be significantly more athletic than in recent years. If the Chiefs can get one more player to emerge on the defensive line alongside Chris Jones then the upside for the defensive unit is elite. A top 15 finish with flashes of elite play is more than enough to keep Spagnuolo around going forward.
However, what if the defense is a disaster next season? Not just at the start, but throughout the season. If that’s the case the Chiefs need to strongly consider moving on. Spagnuolo has an old-fashioned mindset when it comes to defense, but if it works it works. That being said, the Chiefs can’t continue to be one of the top blitzing teams yet rank near the bottom in sacks.
Spagnuolo may have built up enough of a resume to not be replaced after this year, but he should certainly begin to feel the pressure. The Super Bowl window is still wide open, and the Chiefs can’t afford to lose crucial games because of poor defensive play. With that being said, if they were to move on, who are some names to watch as the next defensive coordinator?
Who Could Be The Chiefs Defensive Coordinator After Spags?
When it comes to replacing Spagnuolo there are two options; hire from within, or hire someone on the market. Hiring from within is usually preferred as you get to reward your staff, but you are betting on an unknown commodity. However, the Chiefs shouldn’t even consider this. With this current roster still in win-now mode for the foreseeable future, it’s better to take the safe bet and bring in a proven NFL defensive coordinator.
The most interesting option would be former Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio. Fangio has had success just about everywhere he’s coached defense. His coaching tree is also quite impressive. After being released from the Broncos’ head coaching job Fangio has decided to take a year off of football. He will likely be highly sought after as a defensive coordinator in 2023, and perhaps even as a Head Coach again. If available, the Chiefs should pay a premium to bring Vic Fangio to Kansas City.
Another potential name to keep an eye on is Robert Saleh. Saleh is currently the Head Coach of the Jets, but after this season, that could change fast. The Jets spent big money in free agency and had a blockbuster draft class. If Saleh doesn’t show the brass enough to keep them happy then he may be on his way out. It may be in the Jets’ best interest to pair their potential franchise QB with an offensive head coach. Saleh may not be cut out to be a head coach, but he’s an incredible defensive mind.
After this season there will likely be even more names that emerge as potential suitors for the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator job. In the end, it all comes down to Spagnuolo. Will he get his system to work with the new players on the roster? Will he be able to adjust his system around them? It will certainly be interesting to watch the defense this season. Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.
Is 2022 the last chance for Spagnuolo to fix the defense? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion.
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