Daily Dose: Gunther opens up to media
By Rick Dean
Published Sunday, February 10, 2008
Gunther Cunningham generally doesn't make himself available to the media during the regular season. The fiery Chiefs defensive coordinator, whose marathon work days are the stuff of legend, usually cites time constraints when declining frequent interview requests. But Cunningham must have bottled up a lot of the things he wanted to say because when he voluntarily made himself available to reporters last week, he talked for nearly two hours — usually without questions being asked. Following are some edited highlights of his often-rambling and wide-ranging discussion with reporters and later with kcchiefs.com.
On why pass rush is the most important element of defense ...
I believe you've got to cut the head off the snake, and the rest of the body dies. And the head of the snake is the quarterback. You've got to get to him.
On why he likes coach Herm Edwards' philosophy on improving through the draft as opposed to free agency ...
Young players know loyalty. They experience it in college. But sometimes you get these free agents who've made a couple of stops along the way. They get (to age) 28, 29, 30, and the most important thing to them is survival and money. They sometimes don't have the same energy level (of a drafted young player). I want to turn the clock back to those 10 years from 1989 through '97, when we had great defenses built around Chiefs — guys we drafted who played for this team with all the passion in the world.
On how he measures defensive improvement ...
We had 193 drives and gave up only 28 touchdowns. That's 14.5 percent, second in the league only to Philadelphia. That's the No. 1 stat I look at. That shows the improvement of the defense in two years (under Edwards). We've given up only 60 touchdowns in that time, seventh-best in the NFL. That ought to get you into the playoffs.
On the play of second-year safeties Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard ...
Ten years ago we had the same discussion about (future long-time starters) Jerome Woods and Reggie Tongue. I said back then that we had to play them, that we'd live with their mistakes because of what they could do down the road. Well, Bernard has made some mistakes, and Jarrad had some tough games, but I still think — no, I know — we made the right decision to play those guys. I'm very excited when I think of what they can be in another year when their maturity level grows.
On what it will take for his defense to resemble the dominating Chiefs defenses of the mid-90s ...
We need to get back to the turnover ratio we had in the 1990s. Last year was tough because we played a lot when we were tied or behind, and you have trouble getting turnovers then. Once you start scoring and get ahead in games, that's when the other team panics and throws the errant ball. We need to get scores off those fumbles and interceptions. That gets you to the next level.
On the development of Jared Allen into an all-around defender ...
There was a game against the Jets when Herm was their coach that he and I got into it on the sideline, and my only recourse was to bench him. Well, I did that with Derrick Thomas in the '90s, too, and (Allen) is no different than Derrick. He has to do what's asked of him in the scheme of the defense and not just rush the passer on every play. He's done that, and now he's become a solid, all-around player.
You know, I also had my share of (fights) with Howie Long (while coaching the Raiders), and now I'll bet he's hoping we don't draft his son.