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Tyrann Mathieu talks Steve Spagnuolo, Patrick Mahomes and 17-game season in new interview

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610 Sports Radio had the “Honey Badger” in studio for a half hour on Monday.

Super Bowl Opening Night presented by BOLT24 Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu appeared on 610 Sports Radio’s “Fescoe in the Morning” on Monday, and he discussed his upcoming celebrity kickball tournament for charity, the team’s Super Bowl run and more.

The Chiefs signed Mathieu as a free agent last offseason, and at season’s end, he was voted a playoff captain by his teammates. But Mathieu claimed it was not simply his addition that led to a Super Bowl title.

“A lot of people speak about my leadership, but I feel like this was already a good football team — they already had great leaders on this team,” Mathieu said of the Chiefs’ 2018 team that made it to the AFC title. “And I just felt like those guys were destined for success before I got here. So when I got here, it just made me want to work harder and then just bring other guys along with me.”

Along with Mathieu came new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was able to win his second Super Bowl title with the Chiefs. Under Spagnuolo’s system, Mathieu thrived, and he was named a first-team All-Pro as a defensive back and a second-team All-Pro as a safety.

“I enjoy playing for Spags — I enjoy his system,” said Mathieu. “Really feel like I can play anywhere on the back end in that system. Most definitely. I tell those guys all the time — you know, they forget, I was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a cornerback, not a safety. So I always remind guys I’m still a cornerback at heart.”

As to be expected in any interview with a Chiefs player, the conversation eventually led to a Patrick Mahomes mention — specifically his oft-talked-about relationship with Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

“They have high expectations,” said Mathieu of Mahomes and Reid. “Not just from us but from everybody. I think they’re a dynamic duo. Even if you’re able to see them just get along throughout the building, throughout a week of practice, you can tell they got a genuine relationship, a common understanding of what they expect from each other. It’s a fun thing to watch. This is my third team I’ve been on, and you don’t always see that connection, so when you do, you know it’s a special one.”

Mathieu started his career on the Arizona Cardinals with five seasons alongside Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer, followed by one season with the Houston Texans’ Bill O’Brien and Deshaun Watson.

Mathieu further explained that one difference with Mahomes and Reid is that their relationship and purpose set “a tempo throughout the building.”

“I think everything starts from the top, especially with your leaders. And I think having guys like coach Reid and Patrick Mahomes — that consistency each and every day. They’re the same guys. You can expect that, and that’s what we look forward to.”

And while he finds his relationship with Spagnuolo to be strong, Mathieu joked that they don’t have the same “ceiling as Pat and Andy.”

“He’s a good guy,” said Mathieu. “I can even remember instances this past season where, in my opinion, I felt like I was playing well — probably could have been playing better. And in his mind, he probably felt the same. He would bring me in the office and challenge me. He would really challenge me. So for me, I’ve never really had a coach do that. I’ve always been one of the better guys on the team. Coaches never had to do that, but I think in his mind, he sees a lot of potential in me, so I respect that the most from him — him just really staying on top of me throughout the whole season. He never gave up, he never let up. He always was just pitching in.”

That relentless coaching led to Mathieu’s level of play rising in the second half of the season — so much so that he could have been considered a second-half defensive player of the year.

Other notable quotes from the “Honey Badger”

Mathieu on the Chiefs running 2-3 Jet Chip Wasp... and succeeding with it: “Who runs plays like that? And this was the problem we had all spring. Now I come here, I’m a free agent, I’m trying to come out and make plays in practice and it’s pandemonium. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce — they’re running crisscrosses. So I’ve seen all those plays since the spring, and you just — you wonder how those kind of plays get off in a game. You know how they get off in practice. You can’t hit the quarterback. They got plenty of time. Once again, Pat Mahomes, man. He’s got a real understanding of football, how long he could hold the ball, when to drift back in the pocket to create more separation. He’s really special.”

Mathieu on Chris Jones’ importance this year: “I think Chris Jones was really dominant all season. Even early on in the season, I thought he was playing well. I thought we were trying to move him around different spots. He gets double-teamed a lot, but I thought he was just one of those guys that we can count on, especially in critical moments. I think — yeah, you want your D-line to be consistent throughout the game, but I think you need those guys the most on third down, fourth down, two-minute drill, fourth quarter, and he tends to show up in those moments the most, and I think that’s what we respect the most.”

Mathieu on whether Chris Jones returns for 2020 with the expectation he will be franchise tagged: “Yeah, I hope so. He lives like right across the street from me. I don’t think he moved yet.”

Mathieu seemed to be OK when it came to a 17th game: “I try not to get into all that. I love playing football. People got to remember — I sat out of football a whole year, so I’ve missed plenty of games. And then I had two ACL injuries. So I’ve had my fair share of the bench. And I don’t mind throwing on my helmet for another game, but obviously, a lot of things go into that one game... I think it will be more important to really win your division and get home-field advantage, especially with only one team getting that bye.”


Listen to the full 29-minute interview above or by clicking here. Purchase tickets to Mathieu’s upcoming Celebrity Kickball Weekend on his website here.