Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Friday, November 14, 2008
Thigpen may be in midst of changing K.C.'s plans


Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

 
 Jeff Gross/Getty Images
 Kansas City may have found a solution at quarterback in Tyler Thigpen.

Tyler Thigpen has no earth-shattering explanation. He wishes he had something more revealing.

But he just doesn't have a deep, well thought out explanation why he has been so efficient, productive and forceful in his past three starts compared to his first NFL start.

"I don't know," said Thigpen in a South Carolina accent as cool and relaxed as his play. "I guess I just decided to be myself. I just decided to be the quarterback who I am ... That first start, against Atlanta, I admit, I was timid and shy. I'm not anymore."

In the past three games, Thigpen has been one of the more intriguing players in the league. He outplayed Brett Favre in his second start and caught a touchdown pass in his third. He engineered a near game-winning drive in the final minute in his fourth start. The 1-8 Chiefs lost all three games, but they may have gained a future quarterback.

Thigpen has taken control of the Kansas City Chiefs. Suddenly, the Chiefs don't look hopeless anymore and don't look like they will need to go quarterback hunting in the offseason.

If the next seven games are anything like the past three, Kansas City may want to shop for an offensive lineman or an impact player on defense with their first pick next April instead of trading for or drafting a quarterback.

"Hopefully, my play takes care of that stuff," Thigpen said. "All I can worry about in the next seven games is to go game-to-game and not worry about being the future of the Chiefs. That's up to them."

If Thigpen, 24, keeps his composure and swagger, there's no doubt the Chiefs will consider making him the quarterback of the future.

Still, Kansas City never thought it would be in the position to consider Thigpen for anything other than a backup role. The team had high hopes Thigpen prior to training camp. But after a lackluster preseason, Thigpen opened the regular season as the No. 3 quarterback behind starter Brodie Croyle and veteran backup Damon Huard. If anything, Thigpen's best bet was to be a career backup to Croyle, who was being groomed to be the franchise quarterback.

Then Croyle suffered two serious injuries in two starts and was lost for the season. He was put on the injured reserve the same day that Huard was. Thigpen's crowning as the starting quarterback in Kansas City was an emergency reaction.

The Chiefs gave Thigpen a chance to show himself in Week 3 in Atlanta when Huard was banged up. Thigpen threw for 128 yards and was intercepted three times. However, since taking over after injures to Croyle and Huard, Thigpen has been a far different player. He has thrown six touchdowns and has not been intercepted in the past three games.

Using the spread offense in which he excelled at Coastal Carolina, Thigpen looks as comfortable as a five-year veteran. He is extremely accurate and moves well with the ball. Two NFL scouts recently said that they believe Thigpen has the moxie, instincts and athletic ability to succeed in the NFL.

Both scouts said the 6-foot-1, 224-pound Thigpen reminds them somewhat of Drew Brees, whose Saints visit Kansas City on Sunday.

"He's a guy that's progressed every week," Kansas City coach Herman Edwards said of Thigpen this week. "He's gaining confidence in himself and it's a tribute to him and the coaching staff that we feel he can do well. You talk about the guy who's only started four games. He still has a long way to go. He's done fairly well so far."

It's the leadership Thigpen has shown that most impresses his teammates. Kansas City Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters said he saw a different Thigpen prior to the Jets game than he saw during the Falcons game. Thigpen took charge, leading a players-only offensive meeting three days before the New York game. He was a "true leader," Waters said. After the loss to the Jets, tight end Tony Gonzalez admitted that Thigpen's poise and production surprised him, but he was thrilled to have Thigpen as his quarterback.

During the past three weeks, Thigpen has developed a terrific chemistry with Gonzalez and starting receivers Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley. Thigpen will have running back Larry Johnson back on Sunday too. Johnson has been sidelined by the team and the league for the the past four games.

While Thigpen said he is comfortable with his play in the past three games and his chemistry with his teammates, he is not satisfied.

"It's been good, but the next step is to win," Thigpen said. "It's coming. It's close .. We've come a long way, but we have to win."

If the Chiefs win in the next seven weeks, the Thigpen era in Kansas City could continue in 2009.