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tk13
10-16-2005, 01:09 AM
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/12913805.htm

Optimist Gunther reiterates restoring defense takes time

JOE POSNANSKI
The Kansas City Star


Gunther emerges from his bunker for a few minutes Saturday afternoon. Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham does not often come out to talk. He has too many things to do. Anyway his words get him in trouble sometimes. Better to keep quiet.

But we go back a long way. So he emerges. And I ask him the question.

“Is this defense going to be good?”

“Let me tell you something,” he says. “I gathered around the defense last week. And I said, ‘You guys don’t know how close we are to being a great defense.’ I’m not talking good. I’m talking great. Like the old days. I guess I’m the only guy who sees it. But we’re an inch away. I can see it. I’ve been doing this too long. I know what I see.”

Everybody knows the story. Cunningham came back to Kansas City — after a trying two years as head coach — to turn around an overwhelmed defense. Last year he tried to bring back the glory with seven starters who were drafted in the fourth round or later (or not at all). He about had a nervous breakdown. And it didn’t work.

This offseason, he went to Chiefs president/general manager/Santa Claus Carl Peterson with a wish list. He got five new defensive starters — including rookie first-round linebacker Derrick Johnson — and told friends that this defense was going to be like those mid-’90s defenses that mesmerized and inspired KC.

Four games in, the results are mixed.

The good: The Chiefs are ranked No. 8 in rushing defense, and if you take away three long runs against Denver (“Breakdowns,” Cunningham grumbles) then the Chiefs have allowed just 270 yards in 93 carries, which comes to less than 3 yards per carry. Of course, you can’t take away those runs — big plays have hurt the Chiefs this whole decade — but even so it’s clear that this defense, unlike the last few, will hit. The Chiefs defense has forced 15 fumbles, the most in the NFL.

The bad: Because the Chiefs are so set on stopping the run, they have been killed by play-action passing. The Chiefs are giving up 367.8 yards per game, just about what they gave up last year. Only the Giants and 49ers are giving up more passing yards per game. And the Chiefs have given up at least 30 points each of the last two weeks.

“We’ve been hurt by mental breakdowns, especially the last two weeks,” Cunningham says. “They’re using our speed against us. We play the run hard. We had to get the mind-set changed around here. We had to let everybody in the NFL know that we will, by gosh, hit you in the face. I think teams know that now.

“And so, they’re reversing us and running play action against us. We’ve worked hard on those things the last two weeks. I can see the improvement. But I knew it was going to take time. People think this is easy. It’s not easy. We’re changing a culture here.”

Cunningham then talks a little bit about the Philadelphia game. In that game, the offense turned the ball over four times, leading directly to 24 of the Eagles’ 37 points. Afterward, Cunningham says, he gathered around his defense.

“I told them: ‘Do you want to use those four turnovers as an excuse? Go ahead. I’ll tell you what, if you need more excuses, I can give you seven other excuses to use. The rules are against us. The ball isn’t bouncing our way. There are always excuses. If you want excuses, go home.’

“Then I looked each of those players in the eyes. And I said: ‘There are no excuses in this league. You get it done or you get out. That’s all. That’s the kind of defense we are going to be. No excuses. We’re going to get it done.’”

Gunther Cunningham says he spends a lot of time in his bunker thinking about how magical it was at Arrowhead Stadium in the ’90s, when Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith were hounding quarterbacks, when Dale Carter and James Hasty were picking off passes, when the crowd would get so loud that players would come out of the opponent huddle and ask each other, “Did you hear the play? I didn’t hear the play.”

“There was this bond between the defense and fans,” Cunningham says. “It was unbelievable. We fed off each other. It wasn’t like other stadiums … nobody was off getting a hot dog or a beer. When the second half began, fans were in their seats, screaming for the defense. We fired them up, they fired us up, there was an electricity. We have to get that back.”

Cunningham then says the 2005 defense, once the players learn how to play together, can have that sort of turnaround. But he says it takes time because there are new players, and the defensive schemes are more complicated than ever.

“We’re doing a lot more things than we did in ’97, I’ll tell you that,” he says. “I love when people say, ‘Just line up and play.’ Are you kidding? In the NFL? You just line up against Peyton Manning, he’ll score 100 points. I’m not kidding. One hundred points. People have no idea.

“We’re a multiple defense. We can come at you a lot of different ways. That’s why it takes time. We still make mistakes. We have some mental breakdowns. You show it to them on a chalkboard, and they say, ‘I’ve got it.’ Well, they don’t have it. They won’t have it until they’ve messed it up at least twice on the field.”

He points to rookie linebacker Derrick Johnson. Cunningham says Johnson’s potential — he’s a 242-pound linebacker who can run with wide receivers — is unlimited. He says Johnson will be a great player, and soon. But he also points out that Johnson has missed at least three sacks because he had his head down when he charged quarterbacks. They got away. Johnson also has often run himself right out of the play.

Cunningham says: “I told him the other day, ‘Do you think guys like you fall out of trees? Do you realize how fast you are?’ He just smiled his little smile. The guy’s always happy. Coaching a young player is like trying to raise a young Thoroughbred. I’m trying to get him to run, and he’s out there eating grass.”

He says a lot of players are close to breaking through. He’s particularly proud of middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell, who often ran around randomly last season, his first as a starter. Now, he says, Mitchell has taken charge of the defense. “Last year, he wanted to know where he was supposed to be,” Cunningham says. “Now, he wants to know how to lead the team. That makes you proud.”

He says Kendrell Bell, despite criticism, has played better than people think. (“He does so many things, like blow up blockers, that people don’t see,” he says). He says Sammy Knight has led the secondary. He says Patrick Surtain is as good a corner as there is in the league. He says a lot of good things about his players.

“There are two things in the NFL that you cannot buy,” Cunningham says. “And that’s attitude and effort. You can buy talent. You can buy speed. You can buy size. But attitude and effort, that has to come from within. And these guys have it. The attitude and effort have been incredible. I see that every day. And that’s how I know that this defense will make Kansas City proud. I’m not a smart guy. But I know that with all my heart.”

Kansas City has had an odd relationship with Gunther Cunningham. The town loved him as defensive coordinator of those teams in the ’90s. The town was not crazy at all about him as head coach. The town went crazy when he came back on a white horse to rescue the defense.

And now?

“We have a big sign in our defensive meeting room,” Cunningham says. “And all it says on it is: ‘PROVE IT.’ That’s what we’re about. Prove it. I know people are saying things about us, how this defense is not getting better and all that. I believe that it’s those fans that drive our sport, our league, so I don’t mind them saying that.

“But I know we’re getting better. I came back to Kansas City for one reason. I wanted to bring back that pride. I wanted to be in Arrowhead again with 80,000 people screaming and our defense shutting people out. I’m not going to rest until that happens.”

On Saturday, Cunningham said he gathered around the defense for the meeting. He thought for hours about what he was going to say. He decided he would go over the game plan, of course — the Chiefs, he says, have added three major defensive strategies for today’s game against Washington. Then, he thought, he would talk about how well they practiced last week, how much they’ve grown, how they are now ready to break through as a defense.

Just as he got ready to speak, Knight walked over and said, “Gun, I’d like to say a few things.”

“And then Sammy gave the most incredible talk,” Cunningham says. “He said all the things I wanted to say. He pointed at the “PROVE IT” sign. And he said, ‘We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.’ ”

Cunningham’s voice chokes up a little bit as he talks. He says it’s his allergies.

“When Sammy was done, I just said, ‘OK, break it up, we’re done,’ ” Cunningham says. “I’ve been in this business a long time. And it’s taken me a long time to learn that sometimes you just need to shut up.”

Chiefs Pantalones
10-16-2005, 01:20 AM
Awwww...that's sweet.

Well, I've been waiting a long time for our so-called defense to "prove it." I hope they decide to "prove it" from here on out.

Won't believe it until I see it though.

philfree
10-16-2005, 01:31 AM
I may be delusional but I believe the worm is gonna turn for our whole team. I expect the O to click but our D is gonna click too and and it's going to be "Be-a-utiful"! We have a 12 game season with a fairly healthy team and I like where were at.............It's right where everybody wanted us to be after 4 games. Folks can color it any way they want but we are comng off the bye healthy and we're at home playing a team that is on it's second tuff road game in a row. We're gonna circumsize the Skin..........

PhilFree:arrow:
~ I challenge any Chiefs fan to be as loud as I am on every D play......I can't be touched when it comes to all day long loud~

Straight, No Chaser
10-16-2005, 01:37 AM
I may be delusional but I believe the worm is gonna turn for our whole team. I expect the O to click but our D is gonna click too and and it's going to be "Be-a-utiful"!...

I've been saying that for years. I hope you're right.



---->

Valiant
10-16-2005, 01:46 AM
proove it...

Fruit Ninja
10-16-2005, 01:57 AM
This Defense has talent. WE all know that. They just gotta play together and trust one another. I mean the guys we have on D can play.

cdcox
10-16-2005, 01:59 AM
One thing it is clear that Gunther has is persistance. Metaphorically, his job is the equivalent of repeatedly hitting your thumb with a hammer in hopes that one day your thumb nail will magically become a steel nail. And he just keeps banging away.

ZootedGranny
10-16-2005, 02:07 AM
I want to drink the Kool Aid, Gunther. Bring the heat on these mother****ers.

Tribal Warfare
10-16-2005, 02:24 AM
Gun better make this defense click, or he'll be run out of town again. This propaganda is about saving his job too. I put little credence on this article, besides the truth that defense needs to kick it up. This is a save my job article

MadMax
10-16-2005, 02:59 AM
I may be delusional but I believe the worm is gonna turn for our whole team. I expect the O to click but our D is gonna click too and and it's going to be "Be-a-utiful"! We have a 12 game season with a fairly healthy team and I like where were at.............It's right where everybody wanted us to be after 4 games. Folks can color it any way they want but we are comng off the bye healthy and we're at home playing a team that is on it's second tuff road game in a row. We're gonna circumsize the Skin..........

PhilFree:arrow:
~ I challenge any Chiefs fan to be as loud as I am on every D play......I can't be touched when it comes to all day long loud~


Word...Brotha! :toast:

MadMax
10-16-2005, 03:08 AM
One thing it is clear that Gunther has is persistance. Metaphorically, his job is the equivalent of repeatedly hitting your thumb with a hammer in hopes that one day your thumb nail will magically become a steel nail. And he just keeps banging away.


That's downright painfull...After a while just touching yer thumb makes you wanna cry. Keep the faith, today is the day of reckoning!!! LOL
The defense has been " hung out to dry " so far cause the offense sputters too much and as everyone knows they are dog assed tired after a while. I really think and hope this is " the game " we can begin to believe in this team again.... Call me a Homer,but after 30+ years I have no other options :( I'll bite my tongue about Saunders play calling and Vermiels clock management and challenges....ROFL!!! And GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. Chief
10-16-2005, 05:25 AM
He says the defense is an inch away, but it looks like they have been about 1000+ inches from the recievers in the middle of the field this season.

the Talking Can
10-16-2005, 05:35 AM
“I told them: ‘Do you want to use those four turnovers as an excuse? Go ahead. I’ll tell you what, if you need more excuses, I can give you seven other excuses to use. The rules are against us. The ball isn’t bouncing our way. There are always excuses. If you want excuses, go home.’

“Then I looked each of those players in the eyes. And I said: ‘There are no excuses in this league. You get it done or you get out. That’s all. That’s the kind of defense we are going to be. No excuses...."


took the words right out of my mouth...quit blaming our defensive problems on our offense....our d is either good or it isn't...and right now, with shitty DT play, it isn't..let's hope they figured something out over the bye....

4th and Long
10-16-2005, 05:37 AM
I am reminded of an old screen print that used to be found on many a t-shirt back in the day. It had 2 vultures sitting on a branch. Under them was the phrase, "Patience hell! I'm going to kill something!"

Extra Point
10-16-2005, 06:16 AM
This article couldn't have come at a better time. Hand it to Posnanski to ask a simple question and get Cunningham to give the answer in detail.

Sometimes when you're overhauling a house or car, or building a project of some kind, everything looks so unravelled and out of sorts before a major step. Once you get that step done, everything comes together and you see that great progress is made. You get it done right quick, and it works. Maybe order will have come from chaos.

"Prove it," is right! We just hope that they have experienced enough of the "at least twice." I think we have.

BigRedChief
10-16-2005, 07:29 AM
Awwww...that's sweet.

Well, I've been waiting a long time for our so-called defense to "prove it." I hope they decide to "prove it" from here on out.

Won't believe it until I see it though.

What he said.:clap:

wazu
10-16-2005, 08:20 AM
Another feel-good Posnanski article. Yay. "Prove it" is right. "Prove it in the playoffs" is even more right.

And by the way - Arrowhead stadium is still loud. It's deafeningly loud. Offenses have learned to deal with crowds. Gone are the days when the officials would issue a warning to the home crowd to quiet down. I remember being at a game one time where Elway was crying to the refs over and over again about the crowd. What fun.

Now the best you can hope for is a false start.

Count Zarth
10-16-2005, 08:36 AM
Great article. I love Sammy Knight and DAMMIT I LOVE GUNTHER! :deevee:

fan4ever
10-16-2005, 08:49 AM
I want to believe the D will improve drastically, but if we can't get a decent pass rush without having to blitz to do it, I don't see our pass defense doing much...

...you can have a secondary full of pro-bowlers, and any QB in the league will pick you apart eventually if he has all day to throw.

NaptownChief
10-16-2005, 08:55 AM
Damn, you would think this defense is on the verge of being the 85 Bears if you just read this article and never saw the team play.....then you watch them get zero pressure on the QB, Siavii get knocked on his ass, Browning thrown completely out of the play while our secondary is waiving at receivers like they just came home from the war and you realize this isn't the 85 Bears but rather the same old bottom third of the league Chiefs defense we have been looking at since the 2000 season.

Terribilis
10-16-2005, 09:19 AM
I cant believe Gunther didnt mention how awesome Mcleon is...

I hope vermeil lets him know whats up.

Count Zarth
10-16-2005, 09:43 AM
I cant believe Gunther didnt mention how awesome Mcleon is...

I hope vermeil lets him know whats up.

Vermeil just highlighted McCleon's interception on the Chiefs pregame show.

C-Mac
10-16-2005, 10:01 AM
“Then I looked each of those players in the eyes. And I said: ‘There are no excuses in this league. You get it done or you get out."

Who wouldnt want to play for Gunther........another great article by JoPo :thumb:

B_Ambuehl
10-16-2005, 02:51 PM
the Chiefs, he says, have added three major defensive strategies for today’s game against Washington.

hahaha.....

maybe it's those 3 things that kept Brunell passing for 500 yards eh?

htismaqe
10-16-2005, 02:54 PM
I cant believe Gunther didnt mention how awesome Mcleon is...

I hope vermeil lets him know whats up.

Gunther obviously loves McCleon as much or more than Vermeil, since Vermeil wanted to activate Warfield today and Gunther vetoed it.

Mr. Krab
10-16-2005, 02:58 PM
Gunther obviously loves McCleon as much or more than Vermeil, since Vermeil wanted to activate Warfield today and Gunther vetoed it.
The over/under on how many threads htismaqe posts this in? :)

htismaqe
10-16-2005, 03:04 PM
The over/under on how many threads htismaqe posts this in? :)

1) It pisses me off. I can't believe Warfield was inactive.

2) Call it vindication. I didn't want Gunther back here in the 1st place. I've never thought he was the answer. And we've had to endure "McCleon is the problem" for 4 weeks now when it's now obvious Gunther is the problem.

Otter
10-16-2005, 03:19 PM
I still can't believe he's the Chiefs DC after the HC debacle. It’s a weird situation from both sides of the arrangement.

Extra Point
10-16-2005, 03:25 PM
Where the f*** do you think McLeon came from? Gun probably thought, "If all you want him for is special teams, piss on it! I'm going to see what your golden boy can do today!" Washington proved to be a less-leakage DB. Wesley sure performed as usual.

We won. Let's drive on!