Daunte Culpepper-Scott Linehan Connection Much Ado About Nothing in Detroit
The debate rages on in Detroit. The decision to name either Daunte Culpepper or Matthew Stafford as the starting quarterback for the Lions is a difficult one, to be sure, but everyone seems to be an expert on the topic.
It just might be impossible to tune into sports talk radio for five minutes anywhere in the Mitten State without hearing someone's opinion on the matter. That’s why I find sports talk radio so frustrating at times—opinions are tossed around indiscriminately, but some hold little water.
Here's one from the Stafford camp: "If the Lions are paying him $42 million, they better play him."
The reality is Stafford will get his money whether it's him or Culpepper winning (or losing) the games. Bad things happen when you let payroll decide your depth chart.
But I think even worse than the Stafford money argument is the Culpepper-Linehan connection.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the situation, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan ran the offense in Minnesota from 2002-2004 with Culpepper as his starting quarterback. During Linehan's reign as Vikings offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Culpepper saw vast improvement leading up to the best year of his career in 2004.
The Culpepper camp often cites this fact as a reason that Daunte should be under center for the Lions this season.
The argument sounds good, doesn't it? Linehan and Culpepper reunite to draw some plays in the sand and the Lions win games, right?
A lot has happened since Culpepper and Linehan were split apart after the 2004 season. Culpepper sustained severe knee damage during a game in 2005, causing him to miss the remainder of the season and eventually much of the next season. He retired after bouncing from Minnesota to Miami to Oakland, unable to hold down a spot.
During retirement, Daunte’s weight ballooned to near 300 pounds, a far cry from his Pro Bowl playing days.
After all this, would Scott Linehan really be the reason Culpepper succeeds in Detroit? Daunte rehabbed the knee, and Daunte lost the weight—he's now back down to around 260 pounds. If Culpepper is successful in Detroit this year, it will be because of all the work he put in to try to once again be that player.
Culpepper was a Pro Bowler in 2000, while Linehan was coaching at the University of Louisville. The worst full season of Culpepper's career came in 2002, under Linehan.
To me, it seems Culpepper's career success (and failure) has more to do with himself and his own abilities and less to do with his offensive coordinator.
When it comes to Culpepper versus Stafford, the best player should play. Throw out salary figures and throw out coaching connections; the decision needs to be made based upon who is making the best decisions and best throws on the field.
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