Thigpen earns nod, for now
By Rick Dean
Published Wednesday, December 10, 2008
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are still three games to play in this lost 2008 season, and more than four months to go before the 2009 NFL draft. A lot of things can happen between now and then to make a coach change his mind.
But on Tuesday, at least, Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said he is leaning toward going into the 2009 season with Tyler Thigpen as the starting quarterback running the semi-spread offense installed at midseason to suit his parti);
DAVID ZALUBOWSKI / The Associated Press
Since a three-interception debut against the Falcons, Tyler Thigpen has 12 scoring passes with four picks.
"Right now, he's the starting quarterback. That's how you've got to look at it," Edwards said of Thigpen, Minnesota's seventh-round draft pick of 2007 who came out of tiny Coastal Carolina and became a surprise eight-game starter — the last seven in succession — for the Chiefs.
"The key — and this will be a big key for us — will be what kind of offense we decide to play," Edwards said. "Will it be this (semi-spread) we've kind of built along the way? That will have a role in who you go after in free agency. And if we decide to keep expanding this offense, then we've got to look at some different players in the draft."
And Edwards is inclined to keep the hybrid offense the Chiefs built around Thigpen after he became an injury-promoted starter for the Week 8 game with the Jets, a road game the Chiefs lost in the final minute.
Built around Thigpen's experience as a shotgun quarterback with scrambling abilities, Kansas City's new attack incorporates some elements of the college spread offense while maintaining run concepts that are dear to Edwards' ball-control heart.
"For me, personally, I kinda like the way it's going," Edwards said. "We're able to control the clock, and we're still able to run the ball. And, we haven't turned the ball over a lot. That's a good sign.
"I haven't liked it as much in the last two weeks when we haven't scored a lot of points — only 10 (in each game) on offense. But we've moved the ball, even when we didn't get it in the end zone."
The Chiefs have eliminated much of the three-and-out sluggishness that plagued them in the first half of the season when Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard were running the offense from under center with a heavy emphasis on Larry Johnson and the MIA running game.
Kansas City scored only 75 points in its first six games — one of them a Thigpen start, the first of his career when he threw three interceptions at Atlanta. The Chiefs scored 158 in Thigpen's seven straight starts (with one win) since becoming the full-time starter.
"When you look at us now, we've got the ability to drive the ball, make first downs, move the chains," Edwards said. "We got into this situation because of (injuries), but we've expanded things now, and that's been kind of fun.
"I especially like that we've been able to run the ball. We've got to keep doing that. Have you seen our (snowy) weather out there today? You've got to be able to run the ball if you're an outdoor team playing in that weather."
But Edwards also left himself plenty of wiggle room. Pressed as to whether "Tyler is the quarterback now" means "Tyler will be the starter next year," Edwards was less definitive.
"We'll decide that at the end of the year," he said. "We'll see where he's at after the last three games. But if he continues to play the way he's been playing — he's been pretty good. From the Jets game on, he's thrown 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions. That's something like a 90 passer rating for a guy who's really a rookie quarterback, who didn't have experience at a big school. Give him credit for that, and to the players for buying into this offense."
Edwards also held open the prospect that the Chiefs could look at a college quarterback with experience in the spread offense.
Again, a lot of things could change between now and April.
CHIEFS NOTES — The Chiefs likely will be without center Rudy Niswanger for Sunday's home game with San Diego. Niswanger injured a knee for the second straight week during the third quarter at Denver. He returned for the Chiefs' final drive that ended a foot short of tying the game with 4:35 left. Edwards said the Chiefs don't think Niswanger needs to go on injured reserve, which would leave him inactive for the final three games.
The Chiefs will move Wade Smith from right guard to center to replace Niswanger. They believe former KU guard Adrian Jones should be healthy enough to return to the lineup after missing the last three games with an ankle injury.