In a surprising move last week the Kansas City Chiefs swapped starting CB Marcus Cooper for Jamell Fleming, who was signed off the Ravens practice squad about six weeks earlier. Cooper had been struggling at corner so in hindsight it's not a surprise he was replaced. But replacing a starting cornerback is still a pretty big move.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton admitted that Cooper was benched for performance reasons as he explained the switch.
"Well, obviously, we just thought that we needed to [make the switch]," Sutton said (via quotes from the Chiefs). "Coop has obviously had some issues in there, but I think the other part, Fleming has practiced really well for us since he's been here. We kind of said, ‘Hey, we need to see if this guy can play.' As it turned out we had a couple new guys in there.
"But yeah, that was kind of the driving force of it. It wasn't just Coop not playing as well as we'd like. It was also Fleming showing us in practice and going against our first offense and that for a couple weeks, maybe this guy deserves a look and so we said, ‘Hey, let's take a look and see how it will turn out.'"
Not to sound like Andy Reid here but the Chiefs are going to need all those corners. We're only at the halfway point of the season and you know at some point, whether it be Fleming or Sean Smith or Phillip Gaines or Chris Owens, something is going to happen to one of the cornerbacks where the Chiefs will need Cooper to fill in, even if for only a few plays. That's why it's important Cooper stays involved mentally. Obviously we only know him from the player-media relationship but he comes off as a sharp kid who won't let this rattle him. He was a seventh round pick and was cut from the 49ers only to end up starting for the Chiefs later that year. You don't do that without some perseverance and mental toughness. You never know how players will respond in situations like this though.