The Kansas City Chiefs held their introductory press conference for new safety Tyrann Mathieu on Thursday, and we received a better glimpse into how the Chiefs see him fitting into their 2019 roster and beyond.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach spoke about Mathieu’s versatility that shows up on tape in his introduction of the player:
VEACH: “One of the things that was really interesting when we started this free agency process with coach (Steve) Spagnuolo was him coming down to the office after we gave him a list of safeties to watch — he would go down the list and say strengths and weaknesses. ‘I like this guy and this and that, here’s what he can do, here’s what he can’t do. When he got to Ty he said, ‘I’m struggling to see what he can’t do.’ I said, ‘Coach, say no more; we’re going to get him.’”
Coach Andy Reid described it in even further detail:
REID: “He can play anywhere...he can play corner if you need him to play corner. He’s played inside in the nickel, he’s played up on the ball, he’s played back on the ball. He’s a phenomenal blitzer. He’s sitting next to me — he’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he plays that way, he plays such a physical game and he’s so good toward the line of scrimmage. On the same hand, he’s great on the back end making plays on the ball on the back end. Tremendous amount of flexibility, and I know Spags will use all of it.
Mathieu also spoke to the things he does well when he’s on the field:
MATHIEU: “Playing in this scheme will really allow me to really do what I do best — which is to be a hunter. So I’m excited about that...I love doing it all. I’m a football player. My coach gives me a job, I just try my best to do it. I think any time I can get around the football — or close to it — I just feel like [I have] superpowers, y’know? And any time I’m away from the football, I just feel like my powers are diminishing.”
That quote sounds like a player that is going to do a little bit of everything, particularly in and around the box. Spagnuolo’s excitement for Mathieu relates to some of the things he said during the season last year while doing film breakdowns for NFL Films, as well as his comments during his own introductory press conference.
Spagnuolo has stated multiple times that this offseason away from the game helped him reevaluate himself as a coach and examine the game from afar. He even stated in one of his NFL Films breakdowns last year concerning coverage shells that, “If you’re static, you’re dead.”
Mathieu’s versatility and flexibility will help Spagnuolo implement various pattern-match coverage shells to stop the spread offense. His ability to line up everywhere and do everything will be key to disguising tendencies — something the New England Patriots were able to exploit against former defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Mathieu is truly the key component of a versatile defensive scheme.
However — that’s not the only essential ingredient in this signing. Veach stated just how vital Mathieu will be not only on the field, but off it as well (emphasis mine):
VEACH: “You can acquire as many great players or talented players as you like, but until you have the catalyst to make it go, things will never work out the way you want them. This was the catalyst that we had to have.”
I spoke to the importance of Mathieu as a leader in this locker room in my film breakdown. He walked into a Houston Texans room full of veteran talent and immediately commanded the room. The team fell in lock-step behind Mathieu and adopted his mentality and work ethic on and off the field.
This Chiefs defense has struggled to find an identity for several years now. They’ve lacked a true toughness and edge to them. The consistently good defenses throughout the league are ones that have put fear into offenses, and ones that didn’t roll over when problems arose. They were able to lean on toughness and work ethic to finish the job.
The Chiefs defense — particularly in the past two years — hasn’t been able to do that nearly enough. Now they find themselves without the leaders in the locker room that they’ve looked to during that timespan. Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Eric Berry are gone — a true end of an era for the modern Chiefs defense.
But Brett Veach, Andy Reid and Steve Spagnuolo believe that this signing changes all of that. The player that was able to command a group of established veterans on day one of a new team is the catalyst for this defense. His versatility, work ethic, and mentality are the new cornerstones of this group — and Mathieu has embraced it already.
That’s part of the reason why I’m here, as well...it’ll be my job to come in here and try to give some direction, try to give guys some motivation and inspiration, and be an everyday factor. I want to be the same guy that I am in the weight room that I am on the football field. That’s what I’m really looking forward to bringing to this team.
This organization recognized the need for a change in mentality. They recognized that the old way of doing things wasn’t going to cut it, and even though those recent leaders were key components to success — and likely future members of the Chiefs Ring of Honor — they needed a new identity.
Tyrann Mathieu is that new identity. The catalyst for the 2019 Chiefs defense.