Less than 24 hours after the Chiefs released the heart and sole of their defense over the past nine years in Eric Berry, the team held a press conference for their new safety, Tyrann Mathieu. With Head Coach Andy Reid sitting to his right and General Manager Brett Veach to his left, Mathieu thanked God, the Hunt family and both Reid and Veach.
During the press conference, Reid used the words “leader” and “leadership” around three times. Veach called Mathieu the “catalyst” of the Chiefs defense. The message was very clear.
Mathieu wasn’t signed by the Chiefs to replace Eric Berry on the field; the Chiefs also brought him in to be the new anchor 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.”
In the way Reid and Veach spoke of Mathieu, you would think that they believe he can be exactly what Berry was on the field.
The true challenge will not be to replicate what Berry did on the field. In fact, the big challenge will be what he did off the field. Berry was always considered as the “heart and soul” of the Chiefs during his nine-year tenure. Berry was the one guy that Chiefs fans could not imagine a team without.
But alas, that time has come and we all have to move on. While Mathieu is not a homegrown product that came out of the draft like Berry was, he has displayed exceptional leadership skills in the past. Just ask Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien.
“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.”
When the Chiefs decided to sign Mathieu to a three-year deal worth $42 million, the goal was for Mathieu to not just be a good football player but also an inspiration to many Chiefs fans.
If they do win the Super Bowl in the next three seasons, remember this moment.