Second-year nobody Tyler Thigpen licked his palms at the ten-yard line and extended his forearms into the warm San Diego air, preparing his hardcount in shotgun formation. Gonzalez was in motion yet again, Bradley staggerred back a yard or two off the line of scrimmage, and Bowe stood wide, motionless as he eyed Thigpen's cadence.
I was in my correct stance, too: jack-knifed over the television set, squeezing my fists so tight my knuckles exploded. The classic Sunday afternoon of a Chiefs fan. The intensity rarely relented over four thrilling quarters in Qualcomm Stadium.
It was in these final moments of the game, however, that presented the most dramatic departure of the past two seasons for Chiefs fans everywhere: Tyler Thigpen's emergence as a potential force in the NFL. Statistically, he has torched two decent-to-good defenses and one downright superior one. Competitively, he has kept all three of his most recent starts winnable.
But his immense field presense was the most dramatic change of pace for a squad that's endured, for three seasons, low-key, frail quarterbacks (Brodie Croyle), elderly, frail quarterbacks (Trent Green, Damon Huard), quarterbacks who aren't actually quarterbacks (Ingle Martin), and pure, downright incompetent quarterbacks (Tyler Thigpen against the Falcons). But above all, the Chiefs endured quarterbacks who have struggled to provide the feeling that Thigpen exuded against the Chargers this afternoon: that come hell or high water, he was the leader under center (kind of) who can will this team to succeed.
Now, to be clear, we didn't succeed. Not today. But Thigpen left no doubt that it was possible. He played today like he owned the place.
But hopes were only high amongst the most blindly patriotic that Croyle could ascend to QBotF status after six sorry losses in 2007. Few believed that Huard could make chicken salad out of YouKnowWhat when he took the reigns. Heck, few believed Green had a final run in him when he returned to lead this team in 2006.
Really, the last time a Chiefs fan felt this good about his starting quarterback... may be beyond my ability to remember. Huard inspired in his short run in 2006, but he was accepted as a stopgap. The last time Green was his splendid self was in the 2005 season, the last of his heyday, and that doesn't compare to the QBotF feelings Chiefs fans are starting to generate towards Thigpen. No, the best I can do is 2000, when it was clear we had wisely traded for Green, and that we'd reap the benefits for years.
Thigpen's performance of potential yesterday, boosted by the sure hands of Bradley, Bowe, and Gonzalez, was the potential stuff that potential dreams are potentially made of. His decision-making was uniformly superb. He made brilliant decisions with ball placement, pocket manuvering, and trusting his receivers to make a play. His arm is impressive. His unflappability was remarkable. His passion is obvious.
It's possible that defenses start to figure him out, that his hot streak fades, that he's not cut out for the under-center style of football that prevails in December.
But like this entire team, he's starting to get it and it shows. He is a one man distillation of what this team is growing capable of. And he's already commanding a completely new enthusiasm for Chiefs fans for Sundays to come.