At some point over the last few years, the Detroit Lions became too good for Daunte Culpepper. I’m not 100% sure when this occurred but I think it was when the Lions were marching towards a 3-13 season in ’06. Or, it could have been in ’05 when the Lions were a force at 5-11. Clearly a team that has gone 24-72 over the last six years has no use for a 30-year old quarterback with a reasonable salary who has a 4,700-yard/39-touchdown-season under his belt.
As tempting as it is to stay in sarcasm mode for the remainder of this post, I’m going to switch to logical/dumbfounded mode. The Lions are in the midst of the worst six-year stretch in NFL history. They have been looking for a franchise QB since before I was born. Their current QB is a 34 year-old journeyman with three more career touchdown passes than interceptions. The Lions couldn’t have a worse QB situation even if they could swap with any team in the league. The Lions feature a freaky-talented three-wide receiver, pass-happy offense. Culpepper just happened to thrive in the same offense for five years in Minnesota. In fact, if anyone should know how good Culpepper can be, it’s Matt Millen. The Lions were biannual victims of Culpepper’s domination.
Two years ago—before Culpepper injured his knee—he was widely recognized as one of the top four quarterbacks in the league (along with Manning, Brady, and McNabb). The Dolphins—hoping that Culpepper would return to form for their organization—gave him a grand total of 11 games over two injury-riddled seasons before concluding that he was washed-up. Now, 27 NFL teams are avoiding him like the plague. I am almost certain that if Tom Brady went down with an injury the Patriots would be the first team in line to trade for Culpepper. It almost seems as if NFL GM’s live in a fantasy world where they practice groupthink refusing to take even the slightest risks for fear of failure. Only in the NFL would a group of highly-paid, educated men think that Randy Moss is washed up. The Green Bay Packers made the dumbest move in the history of professional sports by passing on Moss and that dumbness has little to do with how Moss performs this year. It has everything to do with the fact that it would have cost them a fifth-round draft pick. GM’s over-think themselves to a point of paralysis. That is what the Lions are doing now with the Culpepper situation.
How can we trade for Culpepper when we already have Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovski, and Drew Stanton? I believe that is a question that the Lions front office asked itself without even a hint of sarcasm. And even worse, I think they answered that question with a simple: “we can’t.” The Lions have talked themselves into thinking that there is no room in Detroit for Culpepper when everyone in the universe—with the exception of Terry Foster—can see that he could be a godsend for the organization. The Dolphins just traded a fifth-round draft pick for Trent Green. One would think that Culpepper’s price would be comparable or even less. That means all it would take for the Lions to obtain Culpepper would be parting with a fifth-round. The worst thing that could happen is that the Lions find out that Culpepper will never be the same again and they cut him. The best thing that could happen is that Culpepper returns to form and the Lions have one of the top offenses in the NFL. Any Business or Econ major—or any breathing human being really—could tell you that the cost-benefit analysis of that decision is favorable towards bringing in Culpepper.
One thing that I am having a hard time understanding is how teams are so convinced that Culpepper won’t return to form. His knowledge of the quarterback position should be the same as it ever was. The strength of his arm should be the same as it ever was. The only two things that may cause problems are his ability to scramble and his ability to plant while throwing. Culpepper never needed to scramble to be a good QB in the first place. Plus, he can’t be any slower than Byron Leftwich even after the injury. So everything comes down to Culpepper’s ability to plant his leg while throwing. With modern day medicine and physical therapy, there is no reason to bet against a man being able to rehabilitate his knee to the point of being able to throw a football. At the very least, it’s worth a fifth-round draft pick to find out.
I’m going to close this post by playing a game. I’m going to list a group of quarterbacks. One of the quarterbacks is not like the rest. The object of the game is to identify the quarterback that’s not like the rest. I’ll help even give you a hint: his name is bolded in giant font.