The Coach on the Field

The 2004 experiment failed, and failed miserably. The theory was that the Kansas City Chiefs had enough talent to field a competitive defense that would enable the team to compete for a Superbowl. All they needed was a new coach and a new philosophy to guide them. Enter Gunther Cunningham.

However, after finishing the season at 7-9 and fielding a defense ranked 31st out of the 32 NFL teams, the Chiefs have taken a different approach this off season. This time, they have sought out talent, and lots of it. But not just talent alone; defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham sought out talent that could also provide leadership, both on and off the field.

Enter Sammy Knight. The Chiefs signed free agent strong safety Sammy Knight to a 5 year contract. Knight has been in the NFL for 8 seasons, having played 6 with the New Orleans Saints and 2 with the Miami Dolphins. Over the course of those 8 seasons, Knight has amassed 35 interceptions, 4 of which he returned for touchdowns. Those 35 interceptions are 2nd in the NFL over the past 8 seasons. Clearly, Knight brings a playmaking ability that the Chiefs' defense has lacked.

"Here's what I think I bring to this defense," Knight said. "Big plays. That's what I think great defense is. You make a play. You intercept a pass. You knock a ball free. I think I bring that ability and a passion for this game."

That is music to the Chiefs' ears. That's what they expect to see out of Knight, but they expect it to have an impact on the rest of the defense as well.

Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil said, "He's a hitter. He knocks balls loose. He takes it away. He's intercepted a lot of balls in his career. The reason we wanted him here was to bring leadership to our defense, specifically the secondary. He can do it. I talked with two guys who played with him in Miami and they swear by him. I spoke with (former Dolphins head coach) Dave Wannstedt and he swears by him. I feel very good about Sammy joining our squad. When you add a complete package like Sammy Knight, he does more than just make a positive contribution to his position. He contributes to the entire synchronization of the whole defense. He helps you put it together. He's a very fine signal-caller. He's a good leader. He's a tremendous preparation guy. I think that will be a very positive influence on our overall defense."

There's that word leadership again. It seems that the words Sammy Knight and leader are almost synonomis. Cunningham said, "Sammy Knight is another solid addition to our defensive unit. He's an instinctive and intelligent football player. He brings an attitude of toughness and tenacity that we wanted to add to our secondary. He's a physical performer who isn't afraid to step up and hit somebody. Sammy also possesses tremendous leadership skills. He's a guy who we expect to be an extension of the coaching staff both on and off the field and an individual who should raise the level of play for our entire defense."

The Chiefs' acquisition of Sammy Knight was due in large part to Bill Kuharich, Vice President of Pro Personnel. Peterson commented, "Bill Kuharich, our Vice President of Pro Personnel, was instrumental in the acquisition of Sammy, a player he has known since signing him as a rookie free agent with New Orleans in ‘97".

Speaking about Knight, Kuharich said, "Sammy was a very productive player at the collegiate level at USC. He played safety and USC would also play him as a linebacker in some schemes. We signed him as a rookie free agent in New Orleans because during the evaluation process, he was the most productive player on the field. We evaluated him as an NFL safety and he was a natural at the position. He got an opportunity to start in his fifth game as a rookie with the Saints and he's never looked back. Sammy has a consistent history of production in the NFL, both in New Orleans and in Miami. His acquisition in Kansas City not only provides us with a player who has an acute awareness of how to play the game, but he also improves our defense by giving our team another proven leader."

If the 2005 Chiefs are to field the kind of defense reminiscent of the dominating Chiefs defenses of old, they must receive leadership on the field. The Chiefs believe they have found in Knight just the player to provide it. "Sammy Knight has already turned the table on that. He is a coach," Cunningham said. "I sit down and talk to him and I can't believe how much he knows about the game." Top Stories