Second Look: Tyler Thigpen

Rolling the tape and reviewing Tyler Thigpen’s performance against San Diego last Sunday revealed an impressive performance for a quarterback making just his fourth NFL start.

Running the Chiefs spread offense out of the shotgun, Thigpen wasn’t flawless. But he was far more than just a game manager, far more than a guy just holding the spot. The kid from Carolina exhibited skills that every NFL quarterback must have to be successful.

He was accurate, he protected the ball and didn’t try to force the ball into tight areas. He stayed in the pocket for the most part but showed his escapability several times and was able to make something out of nothing. In running the offense, he quickly went through his reads and in only a handful of occasions did he lock on to his intended receiver. He did a good job of looking off defensive backs.

Best example was on the first TD pass, the 30-yarder to WR Mark Bradley. The Chargers sent five pass rushers at Thigpen. He kept his head and eyes on the left side of the field, and San Diego CB Quentin Jammer bought the fake. Bradley got a step behind Jammer and was five yards open when he caught Thigpen’s pass in the end zone. If anything, the ball was underthrown.

Now, Thigpen had some things going for him in this game. At the top of that list was pass protection. The Chargers were credited with a sack, but that came on a bootleg play when Thigpen ran out of bounds short of the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, in 44 passes that he attempted (41 officials attempts and two wiped out by penalty and the two-point conversion play) he was touched by the pass rush only twice, and knocked down after the throw just once. That came when LB Shaun Phillips beat RT Damion McIntosh with an inside move and forced Thigpen out of the pocket. A big help to the offensive line was the blitz pickup blocks by RB Dantrell Savage.

Chan Gailey has set up the passing game so the ball gets out of Thigpen’s hands very quickly. Timing him on all the passing plays, there were only four plays where he held the ball longer than three seconds. The clock started from the time he caught the shotgun snap to when he released the ball. On average, the snap took . 3 to .4 seconds to get back from Rudy Niswanger to Thigpen. Five of the 44 passing plays came when Thigpen was under center. In those, he was timed him from when he received the snap to when he released the ball.

On average, Thigpen got rid of the ball in 2.08 seconds. Only a handful of times did Thigpen retreat for what would be considered a full seven-step drop. For the large majority of plays, he took the shotgun snap, took two choppy steps backwards and threw the ball.

Even though his mobility is one of his strengths, Thigpen seldom was on the run against the Chargers and threw only two passes without setting his feet.

Despite a change in defensive coordinator, the Chargers played it relatively safe with their defenses. Only once in that last Chiefs drive did San Diego send more than four pass rushers. In the game, they had five guys rushing eight times. Thigpen did a great job of picking up the blitz, completing seven of eight passes for 109 yards. On both of his first two TD throws, Thigpen saw the blitz, Savage picked up the extra rusher and the quarterback found the open man for the score.

You can count on one hand the number of times his passes were not in the catching zone for the receiver. His worst throw of the game came on that last possession, when on a first-and-10 play at the Chargers’ 18-yard line he overthrew Bradley in the end zone. The Chiefs scored three plays later.

In the first half, Thigpen was 13 of 15. That changed in the second half, he threw the ball 29 times and completed 14 passes. The plays that didn’t work included a drop by WR Dwayne Bowe, a non-call on what should have been a pass interference call against Chargers CB Quentin Jammer, a pass that was hurried by a rushing Phillips and two tipped balls that came when Thigpen locked on to Gonzalez right from the snap of the ball.

There are plenty of areas where Thigpen must improve, but what he’s getting done right now is remarkable given his experience. His learning curve has been steep and he’s handled it without many apparent problems. Gailey has done a great job of twisting the offense towards what Thigpen feels comfortable doing. He seems very comfortable in the shotgun, although he was three of five when taking the snap under center, so he can handle that as well.

If Thigpen continues to get the type of pass protection he received in the San Diego game, then he’s got a chance to get better and better each week. His performance last Sunday against the Chargers was the best quarterback performance the Chiefs have had in two years.

20 Responses to “Second Look: Tyler Thigpen”

  • November 12, 2008  - Rin Tin Tin says:

    Frank Seurer this guy ain’t…nor David Jaynes, nor Mike Nott, or Sandy Stephens or any several other former young QB’s come down the turnpike into KC.

    We gots a keeper! We gots a keeper!


  • November 12, 2008  - JohnNdallas says:

    That’s good stuff Bob!

    Two things tho,imo He DID throw a ball where he shouldn’t have, the TD pass to Tony G at the end of the game, he had no business throwing that pass, but damn it was accurate he threw that thing into a very tight hole and had it been a lesser receiver it may well have been picked off.

    2nd) I thought (just watching it on TV) the pass he threw to Cottam at the back of the end zone was a throw away.

  • November 12, 2008  - JohnNdallas says:

    Sorry I meant to say Bradly , not Cottam

  • November 12, 2008  - Uncuffed says:

    Wait, quick throws in timing routes? Isn’t that a big part of the “circus” offense that Herm told us was the wrong way for the last 3 years? What happened to the good old runs up the gut, play action passes, and punts?

  • November 12, 2008  - JohnNdallas says:

    Another thing Bob said in his thread that I said before also, is keeping Thigpen out of 7 step drops.
    Kudos to Herm/Chan for that bit of wisdom!

  • November 12, 2008  - CraigK says:

    I just have to say this…. Bob thanks for this site.
    Thiggy just might be real deal. Bob thanks for the analysis that I thought i saw with my own eyes..but you confirmed with facts. I thought maybe I was being too optimistic.

  • November 12, 2008  - Dave H says:

    tyler stays up right he will be a good one the wins are coming soon

  • November 12, 2008  - Michael says:

    They have to stop taking the foot off the gas in the second half. Seems like they’re shocked every time with the success they have in the first half, then play the second half like they just want to hold on, offensively and defensively.

    At times, they have looked like they’re in some kind of prevent defense for large stretches of second halves. No stunts, no blitzes, nothing. Don’t like that at all.

    Should be fun to watch Thigpen vs his older brother, Drew Brees, this week.

  • November 12, 2008  - Patrick says:

    Seriously, I mean wow. 2 things to are going to happen next year.

    a.) a high round offensive lineman will be chosen
    1.) equating to a better rushing attack
    2.) increased protection
    b.) the man will learn…not only what we want to do but become increasingly comfortable.

    I’m excited for him, he was a running back in highschool so, although he has a number of years learning the position I believe his potential allows him to better his performance. Also, as his running back status in highschool indicates, his ability to learn the position is very high….the ability to adapt and learn is clutch in the qb postion.

  • November 13, 2008  - FATmonkey says:


    Is it fair to say that the second half let down has a lot to do with the instability of personnel? How much do other factors like coaching adjustments and conditioning play in?
    Great Article. If Thigpen continues to play at this level will the Chiefs still draft a QB?

  • November 13, 2008  - Dave says:

    “JohnNdallas says:
    Another thing Bob said in his thread that I said before also, is keeping Thigpen out of 7 step drops.
    Kudos to Herm/Chan for that bit of wisdom!”

    Yeah, and it only took the top two QBs on the depth chart going on IR for it to happen. Herm and Gailey are a couple of regular Bill Walshs.

    As much credit as they deserve for adjusting things for Thigpen, they deserve just as much blame — perhaps moreso — for forcing Brodie Croyle into an offense where he got hammered almost every time he dropped back to throw. There’s no reason the Chiefs couldn’t have used this kind of offensive attack from the very beginning. It certainly worked for the Patriots last year.

    Perhaps this change and the success the Chiefs have had with it will be the great awakening for Herm, much like Tony Dungy had in Indy when he let his offense run in a way that he wasn’t comfortable with. But it’s still a shame that Brodie Croyle had to be sacrified to make it happen.

  • November 13, 2008  - Colby says:

    Fantastic article Bob! I was hoping for something like this from you. Talk about breaking down a game. When you write stuff like this for us, it gives us almost a coach-level insight into Thigpen’s individual performance. Gailey is the O coordinator of the year right now. Unlike Casey Printers, Gailey is making chicken salad out of chicken ****!

    That being said, I’m terrified that the inspired play calling and shotgun offense will be seen less now that LJ is back. Will the temptation of running him up the gut out of a strong or I formation be too much for our coaches to handle? I’m thrilled that he’s back because I still firmly believe he’s the best RB on the team and a top 10 RB in the NFL, I just hope that he is the one that has to adapt to the offense….not the other way around.

  • November 13, 2008  - Robert says:

    Quarterback depth chart for 2009
    Starter: Tyler Thigpen
    Backup: Training camp winner between Quinn Gray and Brodie Croyle
    3rd String: Draft pick (my pick – Tim Tebow/University of Florida)

  • November 13, 2008  - DWChiefs says:

    We also have to keep in mind that the offensive/qb improvement has come when we suddenly have a 3rd option to throw to in M.Bradley. He gets signed…all of a sudden everybody seems open. Also, haven’t heard McIntosh’s name called much lately….which is a good thing. Perhaps it took 6-7 games for him to adjust to the right side? Perhaps Herm was right about that after all!!

  • November 13, 2008  - DWChiefs says:

    Robert: As long as Tebow is available in rounds 4-7 I have no problem with that. I just don’t want a high round QB, we have too many other issues that could be addressed in rounds 1-3.

  • November 13, 2008  - ED says:

    A couple of things. I like Tyler’s progression as a quarterback. I still think he’s needs to improve on passing from under the center. For a couple of reasons.

    One Larry is not going to be as successful running the ball in a single back formation than from a i-formation with a fullback and a couple of tight ends. And the thing is we need the running game to be successful to keep the defense off balance. I like the spread offense but eventually defenses will figure it out and we have to change it up a little bit.

    That brings me to my second point. Its going to turn cold soon. And the spread is going to be very difficult to run in the snow and swirling winds at Arrowhead. So u need to reestablish a power running game mixed in with some play-action passes to keep the defenses off balance. I think now with Larry coming back we have a real chance to be an even better offense. Because now we have a serious threat at running back to keep the defense honest against the run.

    So i say stick with the spread, but improve on Thigpen ability to throw the ball just as accurately from under center. It will create a dual threat for the defense not knowing what to expect. Are we going to run up the middle with Larry, or are we going to play-action and throw it down the field to Tony, Mark, or Dwayne.

    And to add to that I think Larry coming back is a tremendous boost to the offense because now we have a closer that can chew up the clock late in games when we have a lead. The problem the last 3 games is late we didn’t have a guy that could just pound the life out of a defense and convert on 3 and 1 or 3 and 3 to continue moving the chains and chew up the clock. With Larry back we that guy that can protect a lead and put a game away with punishing runs on 3rd and short.

  • November 13, 2008  - BlakeB says:

    Great point on the midwest climate. It will be a factor in the games down the stretch…at least at home.

  • November 13, 2008  - JohnNdallas says:

    Ed I agree the spread should be used as just another tool, Thigpen will get better in a pro set, I have no doubt about that.
    But the rest of your post on LJ is dependent on which LJ comes on Sundays. Is it the old LJ before his Gold Strike contract? Or is the LJ who earlier this season rushed for 2!! yrds?
    And is LJ willing to block and SELL OUT on play action passes? (After all it’s as much the RB’s job to sell the play action as it is the QB’s.)

    Thats the other thing I’d like to see Thigpen do a better job of, is his fakes to backs, he needs to do a better job of selling it (hide the ball better) actually stick the ball in the guys gut as apposed to just reaching out with the ball and the back is 2 yrds away, That’s coaching, hopefully someone is working with them on this aspect.

  • November 13, 2008  - Ian says:

    I think if we had Thigpen and Tebow we could use the spread even better, we could use Tebow as a runner, a passer and a receiving threat, and the same with Thigpen.

  • November 13, 2008  - ED says:

    I don’t mean to bash Tebow but he’s not going to be a quarterback on this level. Look at all the good quarterbacks coming from Florida in the last few years Leak, Palmer, Grossman. Florida quarterbacks just don’t do good on this level. Tebow may turn out to be a good tight end or something, but he want be playing quarterback. Besides he’s not a natural passer. He’s more of your typical spread offense quarterback a good runner and athlete.

    Most college quarterbacks already come into this league struggling as pros because of the spread system in college that really doesn’t allow them to read defenses. If you’re going to predict good quarterbacks coming out of college the ones that are going to have the most success is guys coming from a pro style offense. That is why a guy like Matt Ryan is having so much success. Its also why I definately believe a kid like Sam Bradford from OU will be a preety good quarterback on this level and maybe even a guy like Matt Stafford.

    If we were to draft a quarterback next year coming out of the spread I would prefer a guy thats more of a natural passer. Somebody like Colt Mccoy or Graham Harrell. Or even Todd Reesing or Chase Daniels. But hopefully we do the smart thing and just work on building the offensive line and filling the wholes on the defense (defensive end and middle lInebacker) in the 2009 draft.

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