Still Being Debated: Has Thigpen Earned the Starting Nod for 2009?

I’m fully in Thigpen’s corner.  I felt he has had the position locked up since the end of the close loss to the jets, and only strengthened it with his play against the Bucs, the Chargers, and even through his bad game against the Bills, the win over the Raiders, and the loss to the Broncos this past Sunday.

According to Bob, it hasn’t been locked up yet:

Herm Edwards touched on the subject yesterday. He said nothing definitive as to where he stood on the issue, other than Thigpen is the Chiefs starter right now. Whether that means he still has that job next year remains in doubt.

One player cast his vote earlier this week. Speaking to ESPN.com, Tony Gonzalez said he believes Thigpen should be the man and that “It would be a disgrace if they don’t. We’ve been playing well since he came in.”

No question the offense has been more productive. But in seven starts, the Chiefs are 1-6 under Thigpen. Yards and points have gone up, but that’s not produced winning efforts.

Sure, Thigpen is 1-6, and partly because he struggled in the 2nd half, so first half blowouts became a struggle to hold the lead by the 4th quarter.

But a good part of the 1-6 is that our defense <i>*didn’t*</i> hold a multiple-score lead in half the losses.

To fix that, we don’t need to change the QB or the offense, and I think Herm thinks that way.  I think what is going to happen is they are going to give Thigpen certain specific goals in each of the next 3 games.  Some of the goals will be:
1) Limit/eliminate turnovers.  Possible standards: no more than 1 INT/game, and no more than 2 total; or perhaps even a goal of 0 INTs period.  Dunno.
2) Spread the ball around. Possible standards: no more than 33% of pass attempts to TonyG; or a minimum of 3 pass attempts for each possible receiver (RB, TonyG, Bowe, Bradley, Cottam, Webb/Darling)
3) Scramble to pass, not scramble to run. Possible standards: Scrambles must be to the sideline where he can avoid getting hit…or execute such-and-such broken-play scramble for a long TD pass, etc
4) Successfully execute plays behind center

And Thigpen will be evaluated on how he hits these specific benchmarks, win or lose.  Those benchmarks won’t be 100% of the decision, of course, because he’ll have the off-season to work with the #1 offense and directly w/ Chan Gailey as the starting QB (an advantage he never had before), but if he doesn’t hit the benchmarks, they might be more tempted to have a back-up plan.  If he hits the benchmarks, Herm/Gailey should be convinced that he can continue his progression into a full-fledged NFL QB who can run any offensive system.

Thus, the biggest area that needs to be fixed is the pass rush, and the LBs.  Luckily, getting a great LB can help fix both of those problems.  Improving the O-line is also a priority, because while ours wasn’t horrible, there are plenty of opportunities to upgrade.  RT and RG were clearly no better than average at best.  As much as I like Niswanger, we could improve there, too, because he clearly wasn’t at a pro-bowl level, and not about to play at a pro-bowl level next year, either.

I’ve said before, the first 3 picks of the 2009 draft, no matter what position (whether we trade down to pick up 2 #1s or not), need to be spent on the best player available at LB and DE.  It should net us 1 DE and 2 LBs.  Then whatever picks we have left can be the BPA at O-line, RB (because ours keep getting injured), WR (because Bradley is a great #2 but has a history of injury problems, and the jury is out on Franklin), S (because Page and Pollard are fine, but neither are pro-bowl and could be upgraded), and maybe even DT (to improve rotation after Dorsey/Tank)…and if there are good BPA LBs or DEs after our 1st 3 picks, take more.

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