KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs general manager Brett recalls providing new defensive coordinator with a list of of free agent safeties to review for this offseason, asking him for their strengths and weaknesses and what they can and can't do well. Then he came across the film of Tyrann Mathieu.
“He got to Ty and he said, ‘I’m struggling to find out what he can’t do.’ I said, ‘Coach, say no more, we’re going to get him.’
On Thursday, the Chiefs officially got him and head coach Andy Reid sees in Mathieu a player ready to bring a new attitude to a maligned Chiefs defense.
“I love the way he plays the game, which is the obvious,” Reid said. “Everybody I've talked to has talked about his leadership and how much he loves playing the game, what he does to the community outside and off of the football field.
Growing up in the south and playing football at LSU in the SEC, Tyrann Mathieu revered former Chiefs safety Eric Berry. He even wore Berry's college number, No. 14, during his freshman year at LSU as an homage to his hero.
“Nobody knows that,” Mathieu said with a smile following Thursday's introductory press conference.
Even though the Chiefs released Berry on Wednesday, ending a memorable nine-year career in Kansas City, his legacy could lives on through Mathieu as the team's new spark plug on defense.
“He gave me a ton of inspiration, especially all of the adversity and things he's dealt with it,” Mathieu said. “It would have been an honor to play with him. I think ultimately anytime you can 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.”
That's the Chiefs' plan, too. General manager Brett Veach sees Mathieu as the lynchpin of the team's transition to a new defensive attack under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
“You can acquire as many great players, as many talented players as your like, but until you have the catalyst to make it go, things will never work out the way you want them,” Veach said. “This was the catalyst that we had to have.”
That's the role Berry played in his prime, and Mathieu sees many similarities in their respective games. Berry played his first two seasons at Tennessee under defensive coordinator John Chavis, who moved to LSU and coached Mathieu with the Tigers. Just as Berry once patrolled Arrowhead Stadium as the unquestioned quarterback of the club's defense, Mathieu sees himself stepping into that role.
“I think ultimately the safety position in this defense in particular is the position you want to play,” Mathieu said of Spagnuolo's defensive scheme. “That's the guy that's moving around, he's lining everybody up, he's the most active guy on the field.”
Money certainly played a role in Mathieu's decision to come to Kansas City, but intangibles offered by the Chiefs played a significant factor. Mathieu, who turns 27 in May, wanted to play with a talented young core of players his age with a quarterback ready to “take this league over,” referring naturally to Patrick Mahomes.
“Ultimately you play the game to be the champion, to be remembered,” Mathieu said. “I've always wanted to put myself in position to hopefully one day raise that trophy.”
In Mahomes, Mathieu sees a gunslinger “that is going to hopefully play in the next 10 Super Bowls.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s going to do everything he can to continue to handle the offensive side of the ball, and I’m going to come in here and try to do my best to steer the ship on the defensive side,” Mathieu said. “Hopefully we can come together and bring this city a championship again.”
Mathieu described Mahomes as “one of the more humble MVPs” with whom he's had conversations. He also sees a similarity between Mahomes and Berry, bringing back Mathieu's hopes of continuing Berry's legacy in Kansas City.
“I've always looked up to guys like him and Patrick,” Mathieu said. “They've always done things the right way, they've always been great teammates, great football players and really hard works. It would have been an honor to play with (Berry), but I'll try to do my best to do it the right way, they way he would want it done.”