The Chiefs made a big splash by signing Tyrann Mathieu in the 2019 off-season. During his tenure as the defensive captain, he oversaw the Chiefs win their first Super Bowl in fifty seasons, go to three-straight AFC Championship Games, and two All-Pro selections. Even though his time in Kansas City was successful, it wasn’t without some strife between him and the fans of the Chiefs’ Kingdom.
After a 2019 season that saw him selected as a First Team All-Pro, Tyrann Mathieu seemed to be the next great Chiefs safety. The defense saw an increase from 27th in defensive DVOA to 14th, the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, and things were looking up for the defense as a unit. Everything was falling into place until… a series of decisions separated Tyrann from the fanbase and the team at large.
The run-it-back mantra adopted early in the preseason was a fairly straightforward one. The Chiefs retained nearly 100% of their previous roster, Mahomes signed his massive extension but was still on his rookie deal, and Andy Reid was still at the helm. Most believed that an extra year together (for the defense) would yield even greater results, and that was true for a while. The defense was blossoming under Mathieu and Spags and the new draft class with Willie Gay, LJ Sneed, and Mike Danna, was proving to be a great one. Hell, the Chiefs’ defense was even seen Swag Surfin’ during a commercial break against the Jets, but this wouldn’t last long.
Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, and Anthony Hitchens, all pillars of the defense (some more than others), took massive steps back throughout the season. Whether it was due to injury, attrition, or age, the lack of production from these core players saw the Chiefs’ defense slide back into mediocrity.
Being ranked 22nd overall in defensive DVOA, combined with a Superbowl loss where Brady and the Buccaneers scored 31 points in 3 quarters, left many Chiefs fans less than disappointed in their “revamped” defense. Desperate for this not to occur again, Chiefs fans petitioned for major changes to be made to the defense. The upcoming draft would clearly outline GM Brett Veach’s, as well as Andy Reid’s, concerns as well.
2021 “Championship Mindset”
The 2021 draft saw the Chiefs use two of their six draft picks on defensive players. Nick Bolton, the second-round linebacker out of the University of Missouri, and third-round DE Joshua Kaindoh were thought to be players with starting caliber upside and possible replacements for the inevitable departures of Alex Okafor and Anthony Hitchens. These selections clearly struck a chord with starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens, but until the regular season started, feelings about the draft stayed relatively quiet. What followed would be considered one of the worst starts in Kansas City Chiefs’ history.
Over the first 5 games of the season, the Chiefs went 2-3 and the defense averaged nearly 33 points allowed… once again, cries from the Kingdom rang loud and rang true. The defense was awful, again, and the starters like linebacker Ben Niemann, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, and safety Daniel Sorenson were playing over third-year stud safety Juan Thornhill and rookie linebacker sensation Nick Bolton.
The public outcry for change (and the unreliable play of the starters) resulted in a change in the game plan. Nick Bolton finally started to see major snaps, but with it came criticism from an unexpected source.
Two weeks later, Anthony Hitchens and Tyrann Mathieu collaborated on what would be a career (at least in KC) altering social media post. Hitchens called the KC fanbase “entitled,” and claimed, “the fans will never be satisfied.” Agreeing with the criticism, Tyrann chimed in by saying Chiefs fans are “one of the most toxic fan bases in all of sports”…
In truth, Chiefs fans weren’t satisfied with their one Superbowl win, and even worse, were pissed at the complacency of their stars. Chiefs fans didn’t just want to win one Superbowl and fade into the background. They wanted their wunderkind QB to cement himself as the best ever, and that wasn’t going to happen if he didn’t win more championships.
Tyrann’s comments not only seemed to excuse their poor play, but it echoed the mentality that previous iterations of the defense seemed to have welcomed, without any of the excuses. Chiefs fans didn’t like that the defenses of old (2008-2013) weren’t great, but at least they had a reason to be bad. The playoffs were a dream, the QB room was a turnstile, and the most the star defensive guys had to look forward to was a big contract on a different team. This Chiefs’ defense had EVERY reason to want to do well, and to most, it seemed they had no desire to.
Future in Question
Tyrann’s decision to dogpile on an already hurt Chiefs fanbase not only ostracized himself from the fans, but it almost certainly affected his future with the Chiefs. The postseason was worse for the defense, The Bills scored 14 points in less than 90 seconds of game time, gave up over 350 total yards, and to cap it all off, the Cincinnati Bengals were able to come back from 18 points down and win the AFC Championship in Arrowhead.
Tyrann Mathieu’s tenure as the star of the Chiefs’ defense started off strong but ended in disaster. In the market for a starting-caliber safety in the 2022 offseason, the Chiefs didn’t even extend an offer to the All-Pro defensive back. A decision that was no doubt influenced by the frequency in which he embarrassed his teammates on the field, as well as his decision to constantly attack the fanbase on social media.
Legacy With KC
How do you remember Mathieu’s time with KC? Will he be remembered with guys like Will Shields, Travis Kelce, and Jamaal Charles? Probably not. But he did have a good run with KC, winning a Super Bowl ring and playing with his heart.
What do you guys think? Leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter and we can debate!