The Kansas City Chiefs made a surprise coaching move at the start of the offseason, hiring former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen to be their defensive line coach. The move was unexpected because the job was not known to be open.
Brendan Daly, who had coached the defensive line the previous three seasons, was then announced as the linebackers coach and run game coordinator after former Chiefs linebackers coach Matt House was named the defensive coordinator of LSU.
Daly discussed the reasons behind a seemingly lateral move on the coaching staff in his media remarks on Thursday.
“There were a number of things,” Daly said of his reasons for making the switch. “We lost a really good coach in Matt House. I was kind of interested in evoloving a little bit and challenging myself and doing something that was a little bit out of my comfort zone.
“I think that’s how you get better — I think that’s how you grow and improve. That was a big part of it from my perspective. I felt like there’s some things I could add to the group and some continuity that we can maintain with that transition — as opposed to having someone from the outside coming in. We were fortunate enough to bring Joe Cullen onto the coaching staff, and it all worked out really well. [I’m] excited about it.”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid echoed Daly’s thoughts, citing Chiefs running backs coach Greg Lewis’ transition from the wide receivers room last offseason as a precedent for a coach expanding his experience with different positions.
“Brendan wanted to move on and try something new,” Reid recalled, “and he came to me with that. I think that’s good. Kind of the same thing with Greg on the offensive side. I think for these guys growing in their profession, I think that important — if you have the flexibility to do it. I was able to move Brendan up — and then Joe, he’s got a great track record as a defensive line coach. We didn’t weaken things. We’ve got a good strong core of coaches.”
For Cullen, the opportunity to join Reid’s staff in Kansas City was a no-brainer.
“It’s a storied, traditional program,” Cullen said of his new team. “The Hunt family. Andy Reid, Hall of Fame coach. [Defensive coordinator Steve] Spagnuolo — I’ve known him for over 30 years. Winningest team in the last few years. Excited to be here and be part of it.”
For most of Cullen’s career, both recently heading the Jaguars defense and previously as an assistant for the Baltimore Ravens, he has been part of aggressive 3-4 defensive alignments. He discussed what he brings to a coaching staff that has primarily featured four-man fronts.
“Coach Spagnuolo — I think he’s been involved with both schemes. I’ve been involved with both schemes. Whatever the defense that he decides to call — we’re going to do. I think we’ll be multiple. It’ll be one with bringing a lot of pressure — all different looks. I think we have all those variables in this scheme here.”
Cullen also took the opportunity to discuss some of the players he will be working with, including first-round selection George Karlaftis.
“There’s been a lot of great guys that have come out of Purdue,” Cullen explained. “The motor just kept showing up the more we all watched him. It’s only even been better. Coach talked about slowing him down. He’s a throwback — he’s old school, goes hard every single play he’s on the field. He wants to get better in everything he does. I’m just really excited that we have him here.”
Whether Cullen’s first season in Kansas City is a success likely depends on Karlaftis’ development and the performance of existing starters Frank Clark and Chris Jones. Clark’s production continued to decline in his third season in Kansas City.
Jones began last season with an ultimately fruitless move outside as an EDGE defender before moving back inside to defensive tackle. Cullen left no doubt about where he sees Jones’ best fit.
“I think when Chris is on his game, there’s not a better defensive tackle in the NFL,” Cullen claimed. “There will be different spots where he’ll move around within the nature of the scheme. I’m excited to get him in here and get rolling.”
Having worked on AFC staffs the past six seasons, Cullen is very familiar with the Chiefs’ roster. The coach was nothing short of bold in his expectations for Clark and Jones.
“I expect those guys to have career years and play the best they have in their career,” he declared. “And if we do that, that will elevate the whole team — and I expect that. I’ve been in touch with both of those guys, love the way they play, and love what they’re all about.”