Warpaint Roundtable – Week 13

This week we discuss Derrick Johnson's future, if Tyler Thigpen is a franchise quarterback, if Herm was really serious about bringing Gunther Cunningham back next season, and whether or not Tamba Hali is a draft bust.

Is Hali a bust? What should the Chiefs do with him this offseason?

Nick Athan: It's a draft mistake in hindsight. If Hali is ever going to play up to his abilities he must add at least 10 pounds to his frame and go through an intense conditioning program in the offseason. It'll help if the Chiefs can grab another pass rusher because they have something in Turk McBride. Next year is critical for Hali who could be looking at a backup role if the Chiefs draft a top pass rusher or nab one in free agency.

Michael Ash: I don't know if there's anything they can do with him. Is there a European clinic somewhere where he could undergo treatments to keep him from getting nicked up all the time? A healthy Hali is a solid left end, but we hardly ever see that player. Like Derrick Johnson, Hali will probably play out his contract and – unless he bounces back big next season – he'll get a modest offer to re-sign.

C.E. Wendler: Hali has had a terrible season, but his first two years were nothing to turn your nose up at. We should be willing to see how he plays next year with a full offseason spent at his natural position of left defensive end, and hopefully with more of a pass-rush threat lining up opposite. However, there's absolutely zero reason to stick him back at right defensive end. If we learned anything this year, it's that Hali is not cut out to beat left tackles.


What will happen to Derrick Johnson? He is not playing like he should, and we haven't re-signed him yet. Is there a reason for that?

Nick Athan: We're going to learn a lot about DJ the next four games as he moves from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. With all the injuries mounting on defense and the fact there hasn't been a single consistent linebacker in the group, including Johnson, this is a move that had to be made. The other issue is the fact the Chiefs have talked to Johnson about a long term contract, but unless he proves he can be a play maker in the middle of the defense, people in the organization tell me he might not get that long term deal anytime soon.

Michael Ash: Johnson cost himself a lot of money this year. He's dealt with injuries off and on, but as a de facto veteran on a team full of young players, there's no doubt the Chiefs expected him to elevate his game and become someone the defense could lean on. He's yet to do that.


What's next for DJ?
Jamie Squire

The move to middle linebacker is an interesting development. It may be a way for the Chiefs to see if they can get better production out of Johnson, or maybe they're just looking to exhaust all of their options before they make middle linebacker a top priority in free agency (Jonathan Vilma) or the draft (Rey Maualuga, James Laurinaitis). Perhaps it's a combination of the two.

Ultimately, there's a good chance the Chiefs will try to re-sign Johnson, but probably at a considerably lower amount than what they would have offered if they'd tried to extend his contract before the season. Whether or not he settles for that will determine his future with the team.

C.E. Wendler: Johnson is a good player, just not a great one. He's suffered from not playing on the same side of the defense as Jared Allen this year. Remember, he led the NFL in tackles for loss last season, no small feat, and plenty of those came with Johnson at weakside linebacker (he switched sides frequently last season).

As for his contract, there's no doubt he'll be offered one, since the Chiefs are so devoid of talent at linebacker. Whether or not he accepts their offer – and he'll be lowballed – is anyone's guess. Do you think Johnson appreciates the fact that he's been jerked around to three different positions in four years now? The Denver Broncos did the same thing with DJ Williams, and only this season was he returned to his rightful place at weakside linebacker.


Assuming that Herm is here for at least one more season, do you buy into his recent comments about Gunther Cunningham being welcome to return next year? Gunther has obviously struggled with the scheme Herm asks him to run, and our defense seems to be going in the wrong direction.

Nick Athan: Next year the defensive scheme will change. Edwards will hire a linebackers coach, there isn't any question about that. I'd say it's 50/50 that Cunningham stays and same goes for some of the other coaches. The only guy who should be retained is secondary coach David Gibbs. The work he's done with the three rookie cornerbacks (Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr and Maurice Leggett) is impressive. Tim Krumrie isn't reaching some of his players on the defensive line. The fact this team has only six sacks in Week 13 must fall squarely on his shoulders.

Michael Ash: Herm means what he said, but is it the best decision for the team? Cunningham has gotten a bad rap in some respects, but there's no way he expected the defense to be as bad as it is this year. He's been involved in too many misses on personnel the last few years. It's time to look elsewhere.

With all the young players on the team, Cunningham has been talking about how much he's enjoyed getting back to the teaching side of coaching. So maybe in a best-case scenario, he steps down to coach the linebackers while someone who has a history with the Tampa Two-style defense comes in to run things. But Tampa Bay themselves will need a new coordinator next year, so that's probably just a pipe dream.

C.E. Wendler: There's no question Herm Edwards wants his entire coaching staff back next year, Gunther Cunningham included. Whether that's conducive to winning or not is another question entirely. How does this really reflect on Edwards? Consider this – in three seasons in Kansas City, the staff under him has produced the worst offense in Chiefs history, and what is shaping up to be one of the worst defenses in Chiefs history. You can only blame the talent to a point.


Is Tyler Thigpen the quarterback of the future or will we be drafting one in the first round?

Nick Athan: Herm Edwards believes Thigpen is, at least, a solid number two quarterback in this league. He also believes Thigpen can be a starter but that will be based on how Thigpen plays the final four games of the season. If the Chiefs can go 3-1 to finish the season, which is possible, and Thigpen can play at a high level and correct some of his mechanics, the future is bright.

In regards to drafting a quarterback in the first round, it all depends if OU's Sam Bradford and Texas' Matt McCoy enter the draft. If Bradford comes out early and he's sitting there at the third or fourth pick, the Chiefs should take him. But that means they'll be ignoring their biggest two weaknesses – linebacker and defensive end.


Is Thigpen the answer?
Jamie Squire

Michael Ash: The notion of the Chiefs drafting a quarterback in the first round looks less likely all the time, but it has nothing to do with Thigpen. The Detroit Lions have all but locked up the #1 overall pick and they're a team in need of a quarterback. In all likelihood, that means two top quarterback prospects would have to be in the draft for the Chiefs to have a shot at taking one. At the moment, only Georgia's Matt Stafford is expected to declare.

If Stafford goes to Detroit, the Chiefs aren't going to reach on someone else just so they can say they drafted a quarterback in the first round. They might target a quarterback later in the draft, but Thigpen would surely open 2009 as the starter.

C.E. Wendler: Why would the Chiefs be interested in taking a quarterback in the first round at this point? The current coaching staff can't afford to waste another year getting a young quarterback up to speed. They have to spend their first round pick on an immediate impact player. This team absolutely, positively, has to compete for a playoff spot next season.

However, a new coaching staff might not be so sold on Tyler Thigpen, who has yet to convince anyone (aside from some overly optimistic fans) he's franchise quarterback material. If the Chiefs enter 2009 under a new regime, wouldn't it be nice to see them make a bold move and trade up with Detroit for Matt Stafford? That move paid off for the Denver Broncos with Jay Cutler.

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