To excel at the highest level of football, it’s almost a requirement that a player is insanely passionate about the game. In such a violent, physical sport, an individual can get an edge by being almost reckless with their intensity and effort — and it’s clear to see which players live on that edge more than others.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu absolutely plays with that intensity and passion — and he maintains that energy for both the positive and negative moments. You’ll see him pumping his fist and celebrating as hard as any player when the defense makes a play — but you’ll also see him throw his hands in the air in disgust when the unit allows a big play.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they haven’t had many reasons to celebrate as a defense this year — and that came to a boiling point against Washington. Mathieu had a passionate moment on the sideline during and after a touchdown drive late in the first half. Coincidence or not, the team didn’t allow another point after that.
Whether or not it was the reason for the second-half surge, his teammates recognize why he gets so amped up.
“It’s special, but it’s what makes him so great,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes explained to reporters on Wednesday. “When you have that energy, it’s infectious for the whole team. We know Tyrann loves football, he’s not mad because he’s blaming someone, he’s mad because he wants everyone to be great. I think that gets the best out of everybody.”
Defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton also understands and appreciates the passion.
“That’s our leader, so he’s going to voice his opinions,” Wharton told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re all going to go behind him, we’re not going to check out on him — and he didn’t check out on us. We’re good.
“We do love it; it’s just who he is. When you see him in the locker room and how he approaches the game, you know he loves what he’s doing.”
He loves the game so much that he can’t accept the failures that have been a theme for this season’s defense. He’s been frustrated all year; we all know it can improve with time — but that has to start showing. In Week 6, two big plays allowed late in the second quarter must have felt like the last straw to Mathieu.
“The guys get tired of it, and those leaders get tired of it,” head coach Andy Reid explained to reporters in his post-game press conference. “It has to change. You need a little bit of that, a little bit of that fire — and everyone needs to feel it.”
As another leader that has given sideline speeches to his own unit, Mahomes knows what Mathieu is thinking in those moments.
“There’s obviously a time and a place for it,” Mahomes reflected. “But when you see that energy that he has, he’s trying to get the best out of everybody. He holds himself accountable as much as anyone else. If he feels he’s not up to par, he’s going to step his game up and he’s going to expect everyone else to do the same. That’s why he’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around because he expects that every single play.”
Mathieu’s words must have really hit home with his teammates, right?
“I don’t know what he was saying,” Wharton admitted when asked about what Mahthieu told them. “His voice is kind of high.”
While Wharton laughed off his answer, it still speaks to how infectious and contagious Mathieu’s energy can be; it’s not about his word choice or what he’s specifically saying, it’s about the passion he has behind the words. They can feel it and also feed off of it.
You hope there doesn’t need to be many more of Mathieu’s in-game, sideline speeches — but Mahomes is confident that Mathieu’s insistence on holding his unit accountable is a positive for the team.
“When you see that Tyrann, good things happen for us.”