Daunte Culpepper is no longer a good quarterback. After coming out of Central Florida in 1999, he sat his rookie year. He had a solid second year, then two bad ones and a decent one. In 2004, he had his best season ever, throwing an extraordinary 39 touchdowns leading a very solid Vikings offense. In 2005, Randy Moss was traded. The next year Culpepper was awful. He went 2-5 before getting injured. Brad Johnson came in and managed to win six straight games with the same offense. He went to Miami, then Oakland and has been awful at each stop.
Over his career, Culpepper has been sacked an average of three times per game. In 92 games, he has fumbled 93 times. (Favre fumbled closer to once every other game.) His career won-loss record is 41-47. So Culpepper was uneven over the first four years of his career and has been awful over the last four.
The bigger issue for me, though, is his character. I believe he would be an awful presence in the locker room, especially for a young quarterback hoping to take control of his team.
By all accounts, the guy is a problem. In 2005, Culpepper blew out a knee. That same year, he was charged as part of the Vikings “Love Boat” scandal, though the charges were later dropped because the judge did not find “probable cause.”
When the Vikings asked him to rehab with the team, Culpepper refused. Worried that Johnson was on the rise after performing well as Culpepper’s replacement, he first reportedly asked for a raise and then asked to be traded. (Culpepper doesn’t use an agent and often communicates with the press via rambling email.) New Vikings coach Brad Childress called Culpepper selfish and compared him to Terrell Ownens. “It just became a deal where I didn’t feel like it was the team. I felt like it was ‘me,’ ” Childress said of his interactions with Culpepper. “And I went through a big ‘me’ situation last year with a guy who was all about ‘me.’ “
After he ended up in Miami, Culpepper pushed himself to return from his knee injury. It did not go well. He blamed the Dolphins. A bad situation got worse. When Dolphin Coach Nick Saban told Culpepper he would be benched, the two engaged in a shouting match at practice. Eventually Culpepper demanded that the Dolphins release him (second team in as many year) and called for the NFLPA to intervene on his behalf. The ESPN article about it was headlined “Peeved Culpepper vows to block trade plans.” He was escorted from a practice by Dolphins security.
In fairness, to Culpepper there have been reports out of Oakland that he served as something of a mentor to JaMarcus Russell. Good for him, though Culpepper might have had to be on his best behavior. There were persistent reports that his debilitating hamstring injury came after he pulled it in a race with Stanford Routt, a collegiate sprinter, trying to prove that he could still run.
So I have two major concerns about signing Culpepper. 1) He might play. 2) He might not.
For argument’s sake, let me swallow my skepticism about Aaron Rodgers and defer to Mike McCarthy, Ted Thompson and most Packer beat writers when they say that he looks good. He has shown himself susceptible to injury. That means Culpepper might have to play. Looking at his play over the past four years, that ought to be depressing to Packer fans. Give me Craig Nall or, yes, Kelly Holcomb any day.
Potentially more problematic, though, is that Culpepper comes in as the backup to Rodgers and, because he still thinks he’s an NFL starting quarterback, could undermine Rodgers at precisely the time he needs someone getting his back. He has a long track record of taking his complaints public. If Rodgers struggles, will Culpepper send an email to reporters complaining that he’s not playing? Will he criticize Mike McCarthy in public? Will he whisper his frustration in the locker room?
All of that and he does that stupid arm-roll.
UPDATE: Tom Silverstein thinks it’s subterfuge. I sure hope he’s right, but I’ve got a bad feeling that he’s not.
UPDATE II: I’ve read two stories today implying that Culpepper’s career was oustanding before he blew his out knee and mediocre afterwards. This is misleading. As I pointed out above, Culpepper had some decent years before his major injury but he also had two very average/poor ones. And more important, after Randy Moss was traded, Culpepper was awful with Minnesota for seven games before he blew out his knee.
UPDATE III: Greg Bedard’s first reaction to a potential Culpepper signing? He thought it was a joke. He’s got a very smart take on the Vikings and Jared Allen, too. Allen may end up being solid — and sober — as Viking, but they gave up a ton to get him. Their QB is still Tavaris Jackson.
UPDATE IV: And Aaron makes the best case possible for a bad position. I’m with him on Tim Rattay, though.