Tyrann Mathieu takes the podium.Posted by The Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, March 14, 2019
There are small, intricate moments along the way of an NFL organization finally reaching its Super Bowl dream that are sometimes forgotten about when it finally happens. In the grand scheme of things, Thursday at Arrowhead Stadium could prove to be one of those moments.
Less than 24 hours after the Chiefs parted ways with their consensus leader of the past decade in safety Eric Berry, the organization held an opening press conference for its new safety—Tyrann Mathieu. With Andy Reid sitting to his right and Brett Veach to his left, Mathieu thanked God, the Hunt family and both Reid and Veach.
Joining the Chiefs, Mathieu felt, was a “great opportunity.”
“Obviously, they have a great football program and my biggest job is to come here, be a leader, try to make plays on and off the football field and put my hand in the pile and help us win some games.”
During the course of 21 minutes, Reid, who is purposeful with his word choice (especially when speaking to the media), used the words “leader” or “leadership” three separate times. Veach called Mathieu the “catalyst” the Chiefs had to have. Their message was palpable and intentional.
Mathieu wasn’t just signed by the Chiefs to replace Berry’s position; the Chiefs brought the LSU product to Kansas City to take over Berry’s role as the head of the defense.
“No doubt, it’ll be huge shoes to fill,” Mathieu said of Berry. “Playing safety coming from the SEC, Eric Berry was always a guy I admired. He gave me a ton of inspiration, especially all the adversity and things he’d dealt with. It would have been an honor to play with him, but ultimately I think anytime you can kind of steer your own ship and get guys to believe in you and get guys to buy into you the same way Eric did, I think that’s my plan to really come in. Hopefully the community will embrace me, and my teammates embrace me, and I can do what Eric did here.”
The way Reid and Veach spoke of Mathieu, they believe he can be everything Berry was for the Chiefs on the field. In that regard, the tape doesn’t lie.
The true challenge will be accomplishing what Berry did for the team off of it. Berry was often referred to as the “heart and soul” of the organization during his nine-year run with the team.
At first thought, perhaps you’d think there was no chance (and I wouldn’t blame you). But a quote from Texans head coach Bill O’ Brien may lead you to believe otherwise.
“He’s a guy who meant a lot to our locker room,” O’Brien said of Mathieu, via the Houston Chronicle, at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. “This is a guy who came in at the end of the offseason program and at the end of training camp was voted a team captain. I think that says a lot about the impact he had, not just as a player.
”He’s a good football player. He’s a smart football player. He’s a versatile player, but also what he meant leadership-wise in the locker room. There’s no doubt we would love to have Tyrann back.”
But Mathieu, who made that much of an impression on O’Brien in just one year’s time, won’t be back with the Texans, thanks to Veach’s reported bidding-war victory over Houston GM Brian Gaine.
Mathieu said Friday that while on the phone with Mahomes, the Chiefs quarterback expressed that he can handle the offense; he just needs someone who can come in and “lead the defense in the right way.”
Reid thinks they got it.
“It is a new beginning for our defense,” Reid said. “Whatever direction it goes, none of us can predict the future. Whatever direction it goes. We have [Mathieu] here to help build on with the other guys that are still on our football team. There will be changes as we go through this—this is the NFL, things happen. This isn’t the end of new people coming in. That’s not where we are at. Whether it is the draft or free agency, but we know what we have [with Tyrann Mathieu].
“We have a leader and somebody that is not afraid to step up and take on that role. And he is a good football player. And he is a better person than all of that. He is a class act. The things that he will do for the community will be as spectacular as the things he does for our football team.”
When the Chiefs decided to sign Mathieu to a three-year deal worth $42 million, a tie for the league-high average of $14 million per year (hello, Landon Collins), the end goal was for Mathieu to be more than just a player for the Chiefs but an inspiration.
“I think you’re going to see the way he practices, the way he plays, the way he goes about his profession here, for young guys, it’s invaluable,” Reid said. “A little bit what I told you with Alex (Smith) and then Pat (Mahomes). Pat was able to see a pro do his thing. You bring in a veteran player that does it the right way and he’ll work in. The practices might be a little different and all that but it’s still the same thing. He’s going to go out and he’s going to attack it and study and take a leadership role, handle it the way you’re supposed to handle it on and off the field. It’ll be great for the young players to see.”
Oh, and by the way, Mathieu, the grizzled veteran on the forefront of this brand new world, is 26. These are the new Chiefs—young, hungry and led by an explosive player NFL fans call the “Honey Badger.”
If they accomplish that elusive Super Bowl in the next three seasons, remember this moment on Thursday.