Saints Will Test Thigpen, Edwards

Everyone is excited about Chiefs quarterback Tyler Thigpen, and that's great. In a 1-8 season, it's tough not to get excited about a young player who puts together three efficient, nearly flawless games in a row. So go ahead, Chiefs fans, enjoy the moment.

But how long will the moment last? While I will apologize to Thigpen for characterizing him as a "practice squad" quarterback a few weeks ago, I'm not completely sold that he's the right quarterback for the Chiefs' future, especially if Herm Edwards is around. Here's why:

1. The Chiefs' new offense feels like a fluke.

2. Even if it's not, is Edwards truly on board with it?

Yes, Thigpen's quarterback rating looks great, ESPN.com is writing about him, analysts like Ron Jaworski are praising him, and he's the next cover boy for Warpaint Illustrated The Magazine. But all of this is due to the Chiefs' "innovative" pass-happy attack. While the new spread offense is fun to watch and has made the Chiefs competitive, it doesn't feel like a long-term solution, but rather a gimmick.

In three games, it's been outstanding for one half, only to fall almost completely flat in the second half. Thigpen, too, turns into a pumpkin when the first-half clock strikes zero.

In the second half against the Jets, Bucs and Chargers, the Chiefs averaged only 112 net offensive yards, and scored only 12 total points. After halftime, "The Gailey Gimmick" produces 3.9 yards per play (far below the Chiefs' 28th-ranked 4.7 yards per play overall this season) and has a third-down conversion rate of 25 percent. Thigpen, meanwhile, has attempted 50 passes for an underwhelming 230 yards, with just one touchdown pass.

Sad but true – in a way, the Chiefs' new offense is worse than the old one. All the opposition has to do is wait until after halftime for the three-and-outs to start. And because Kansas City has no interest in shortening the contest with their running game, there are plenty of chances to exploit the Chiefs' woeful defense.

Here's the other thing I don't like – the Chiefs still don't throw the football down the field enough. Sure, Thigpen hit a bomb to Bradley, and threw a nice pass down the seam to Gonzalez in San Diego. But there are way too many short throws in this offense. It's still far too easy for defenses to play most of their defenders within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, and stop the Chiefs like it was nothing.

I don't see Thigpen making the NFL throws pro scouts drool over at the combine – the deep out, the post, the 20-yard dig, the ball zipped down the sideline into the closing hole between the corner and safety in the Cover Two. Far too often, I see him hitting receivers short who run for big yards after the catch. No matter how much you might want to believe it, Chan Gailey is not Bill Walsh and Thigpen is not Joe Montana (this is also the year 2008, not 1981).

If Thigpen and the spread are for real, we'll find out Sunday against the Saints. While New Orleans has the league's top-ranked offense, their defense is almost as bad as Kansas City's. This game should be a track meet, and the Chiefs should bring in Dick Vermeil as a one-game offensive consultant.

The Chiefs won't put any pressure on Drew Brees (who has only been sacked eight times this year, anyway), and though Kansas City has stopped the run lately, the Saints barely even bother to run the ball in most games. If Brees has less than 150 yards passing by halftime, consider Gunther Cunningham a genius.

While the Saints are torching the Chiefs' young and injury-addled defense, I expect Thigpen and company to do the same to New Orleans. Here's the problem – what happens after halftime?

If Kansas City's new offense is legit, they should have no problems making any halftime adjustments against one of the league's most pathetic defenses, and continuing their first-half assault. That goes double this week, because the Chiefs will be at home, and NFC teams traditionally don't play well at Arrowhead.

If Thigpen and company falter again, there's a problem. He might not be the quarterback of the future everyone wants him to be.

But this is also where Herm Edwards enters the equation. With the return of Larry Johnson this week, how will the Chiefs fit him into the offense? Johnson's pass blocking is too poor for him to be a consistent part of the spread offense. Kansas City's run blocking is also poor – there's no way Johnson should receive more than 14 or 15 carries.

Even if the Chiefs get a lead? Yes. If Thigpen passes Kansas City to a 14-point advantage at halftime, keep throwing. The Saints are good enough on offense (and the Chiefs are bad enough on defense) that no lead should feel safe tomorrow. The Chiefs should approach the game as if they're playing 1999 Rams.

If Edwards chooses to sit on a lead and try to run clock, there's a problem. He might not be the head coach of the future everyone wants him to be (Clark Hunt being "everyone").

So can Herm avoid the temptation of feeding Johnson the ball with a lead? And can Thigpen do anything before the Chiefs are trailing in the second half? That's what's on my mind as the Saints come marching into Kansas City.

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