NFL Coach of the Year and Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians took a risk in the 2013 NFL Draft selecting LSU Tiger bad boy Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu, the player formerly known as the Honey Badger, has had well publicized off the field personal battles that resulted in his dismissal from LSU his junior season and a substantial drop in value prior to this year’s draft.
There is no question in anyone’s mind that investing Arizona’s third round pick, number 69 overall, in Mathieu was a significant gamble for Arians. In fact, Arians’ selection of Mathieu went against the grain of NFL, aka Not For Long, conventional wisdom that says conservative approaches are generally the best policy your first season or two.
Maybe the gamble was bet because the odds seem stacked in Arians’ favor. If you watch film on this kid, he is good – scary good. In many ways he reminds you of another bad boy corner draft pick in 1989 by the Atlanta Falcons. Ironic, since that Falcons selection, Florida State’s Deion Sanders, was Mathieu’s biggest advocate during this year’s draft.
To succeed in the NFL Mathieu needs the ideal situation, and that seems to be exactly what has happened in Arizona. Mathieu will join his former LSU teammate Patrick Peterson. Arians consulted Peterson, another Mathieu advocate, prior to the Cardinals pick. The result of that conversation was Arizona pulling the trigger on Mathieu.
What exactly does that say? Peterson who knows Mathieu from their LSU playing days is willing to put his neck and reputation on the line to bring the troubled corner on board. That fact is significant. Essentially you have a current and a probable future Hall of Fame player putting their stamp of approval on Mathieu.
With that all said, what are the realistic expectations for the “Mathieu Experiment” in Arizona?
Simple – sky is the limit. If Mathieu can walk the line, and he is a mainstay in the Cardinals secondary there is no reason he shouldn’t follow in Peterson’s footsteps by adding the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year hardware to his trophy case. Based solely on his talent, he has to be the perennial favorite when the season begins.
Arians’ gamble is a risk, no argument here. But if it pays off, and I for one believe it will, Arians may have just created one of the most dominating and stingiest secondaries in all of football.