Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

30 Oct 2005

Culpepper Might be Done for Season

At this point the 2005 Minnesota Vikings season can't possibly get worse, can it?

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 30 Oct 2005

46 comments, Last at 06 Dec 2005, 10:27pm by someone


by Raul Allegre\'s Revenge (not verified) :: Sun, 10/30/2005 - 11:15pm

It's painful at this point to even see look at it.

by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Sun, 10/30/2005 - 11:23pm

Well, they're not the 49ers.


by NFC Central Freak (not verified) :: Sun, 10/30/2005 - 11:47pm

Ouch. Here's hoping for a full recovery.

It would seem that the football deities are favoring the Bears. The Vikes looked to recover somewhat last week so a firmer "intervention" apparently took place to insure that MN tanks.

by BillT (not verified) :: Sun, 10/30/2005 - 11:51pm

Hey, remember 1999?

Ehhh...maybe not.

by Ben Roethlisberger (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 12:01am

That's a merciful end to Culpepper's suffering, if you ask me.

by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 12:22am

You probably could have posted this about two minutes after the first game.

by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 1:42am

Brad Johnson's not a terrible quarterback, although I also hear Cleo Lemon is available for the right price.

by NYCowboy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 1:45am

They can have Drew Henson if they want.

by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 3:54am

Note to Mike Tice: Generally, placedholding for kicks doesn't count for QB experience! Unless by 'a lot' he means roughly 1 season (Brad 99 starts, Daunte 79)

"We have to rally around Brad," Tice said. "Brad doesn't have the same arm Daunte has, (but) Brad has played a lot more games than Daunte has.

by David (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 4:24am

Well, they’re not the 49ers.


Didn't the 49'ers beat the Bucs today? I only see the Vikes win when they beat up on refugees and the Packers.

by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 6:15am

In other tangentially related injury news, after Ken Dorsey's ankle sprain, my man Cody Pickett, rodeo cowboy, special teams gunner, UW alum, and 4th-string QB extraordinaire, led the 49ers to a game icing scoring drive with a *stellar* 108.33 quarterback rating. Nice job Cody! I hear the Lions are looking...

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 6:27am

Not to be callous (I hope he fully recovers, of course) but I think this could actually be an improvement for the Vikings. I've never thought tremendously highly of Culpepper. I've always thought of him as being good, but also as a turnover machine who made mistakes at key moments and was lucky to have Randy Moss. Not to put too fine a point on it, but through seven games this year he's turned the ball over 15 times. As a Bears fan, I'm a lot more worried about an experienced and very accurate quarterback like Brad Johnson bringing the Vikings back to contention than I was about a strong-armed but fumble-prone Culpepper doing so.

by TacoSwell (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 6:39am

"I’m a lot more worried about an experienced and very accurate quarterback like Brad Johnson bringing the Vikings back to contention than I was about a strong-armed but fumble-prone Culpepper doing so."

Culpepper has a better career completion percentage and passer rating. He also hasn't been experiencing a steady decline in production over the past couple of seasons, and he was also never benched for Brian Griese.
People like you are the reason sports bookies will always make a profit.

by Charlie Batch (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 7:17am

We can offer you a former first round draft choice with remarkably little mileage. Knows about selling insurance as well. And his wife says his yard is clean.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 8:05am

"People like you are the reason sports bookies will always make a profit."

Well it's a good thing I don't bet then, isn't it?

While I'm not saying Brad Johnson is the second coming of Rich Gannon scene Oakland, I really don't think Johnson will turn the ball over 15 times in 7 games. I also think he has a better chance of getting a demoralized (take that in every sense) team like the Vikings to get their act together over the course of the season. I'm not saying Johnson is better than Culpepper, just that Johnson could be better for that team than Culpepper is right now. Feel free to disagree, but lay off the attempts at funny insults, cowboy, I'm just voicing an opinion. The point of a discussion forum is, you know...to discuss.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 10:15am

I take your point, Basilicus, but with the number of hits Johnson's likely to take playing behind that line I don't know if he'll necessarily be under centre for all that long. Old guys get hurt easier.

And in case anyone was wondering, the Vikings' 3rd string QB is the great, um . . . Shaun Hill, who went undrafted out of Maryland in 2002 and since that time has been active for one game and played 0 NFL snaps. He did apparently throw for quite a lot of yards when he was starting for the 2003 Amsterdam Admirals though. So that's alright. On the bright side, his entire NFL career such as it is has been spent with the Vikings, so presumably he does at least know the offense.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 11:54am

Well, anyone think whoever's at QB that it's more of a problem that 65.7% of their plays are passing plays and that only 34.3% of their plays are runs? And that includes QB rushes as well, which means that stat is even more one sided in terms of the actual play-calling:

245 pass attempts and 33 sacks taken vs. 145 rushing attempts

As long as the play-calling remains that lopsided I don't care if Eleytom Mannifavrebrady is quarterback, they're not going anywhere.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 12:03pm

Interesting. It's sort of the "establish the run" debate in reverse, isn't it? Do teams sometimes lose because they don't run, or do they just not run because they're losing? If teams do sometimes lose because they don't run, are the 2005 Vikings one of those teams? And the Eagles?

by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 12:12pm

At this point the 2005 Minnesota Vikings season can’t possibly get worse, can it?

Sure it could. They could trade next year's draft for Herschel Walker.

by TacoSwell (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 12:29pm

"I really don’t think Johnson will turn the ball over 15 times in 7 games"
Johnson INTs were atrocious and plentiful his last full season as a starter and his brief period as a starter last year. So yeah, I think if the offense relies on him to make plays, he probably would turn the ball over that much.

by TacoSwell (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 12:33pm

"245 pass attempts and 33 sacks taken vs. 145 rushing attempts"
Also that's more of a symptom of a terrible defense getting them behind in pretty much every game this year.
Besides relying on Mwelde Moore or Michael Bennet to lead your offense is probably just as disatrous an idea as putting all the burden on Brad Johnson.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 12:38pm

Culpepper was been playing poorly, but if the 15 turnovers are examined, a significant portion were made when receivers tipped balls in the air, failed to jump more than two inches in an attempt to grab the pass, ran bad routes, or when the Vikings trailed by three touchdowns. If the rest of the Vikings don't play better, and there is no reason to think that they will, Jofnson could easily have 15 turnovers in the next six weeks. Hell, I'd say the over/under for interceptions, just for one game, when they play in Giants Stadium, is four.

If the Vikings were going to have any chance of nine or ten wins this year (which I thought was their absolute, every break goes their way, and all the new signings play well scenario, prior to training camp) they were going to have to run the ball effectively, which also means that they would have to play sound defense. They have been very poor on defense in at least three and a half of their seven games, which effectively ended running as an option for four games. They ran poorly against the Bucs and Bears as well, when their defense was non-hideous, so Culpepper has been in an untenable situation from the start, especially after Birk went on IR prior to the season's start. Brady and Manning wouldn't look good on this team.

It is likely that Johnson will get hurt before season's end. He has never been a sturdy quarterback, which was one reason why the Vikings were willing to trade him to the Redskins after the '98 season. He is seven years older now, and this franchise is as bad at it's been since 1984.

That year, in a memorable game againt the Bears, the starting QB, Kramer, was knocked out early, with a broken bone, if I remember correctly. Peyton and Eli Manning's dad was inserted, and was promptly knocked out, literally, whereupon the third stringer (Wade Wilson, I think) was sent to the Bears, literally and figuratively, and he was promptly injured.

Facing this state of affairs, the inimitable Lester Steckel, head coach, asked Peyton and Eli's dad, now concious, to re-enter the game. It has been reported that the paternal Manning's reply was unprintable in newspapers, and thus the Vikings finished with a running back behind center.

Looking at the schedule, the Giants, on the road, and the Steelers, even though that contest is in the Metrodome, seem to be the most likely candidates for a similar massacre. If Baltimore regroups, they could also produce a similar result.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 12:46pm

Technically speaking, the Eagles still have a winning record.

by TacoSwell (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 1:02pm

one more thing, the last time Brad Johnson was the starter in Minnesota he played mediocre-to-poor football despite QBing one of the best offenses in recent history. If Johnson started 16 games for that team they would've lost in the wild card round at best. Without Monte Kiffin's defense and Jon Gruden's amazing playcalling Johnson would probably be sitting on a couch on Sundays by now.

by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 1:04pm

The NFL did a study that shows that Daunte Culpepper never got injured. Too bad it's proprietary!

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 1:11pm

The NFL did a study that shows that Daunte Culpepper never got injured.
Maybe he can get a copy, to read while he's rehabbing. 8-)

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 1:40pm

Where is Spurgeon Wynn when you need him?

And to think Baltimore @ Minny is the league's Christmas Night gift to all, with the ESPN crew, no less. As much as I live for a chance to see my Birds of Night (no $300 for Sunday Ticket here) on TV in Chicago, this is not going to be good. Ending Christmas Day by explaining to the kids why Daddy is swearing at the television can't be right.

by Jeff George (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 1:51pm

Hello? Anyone?

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 3:56pm

Correction -- the Dec 25 game is Minnesota @ Baltimore. Don't know why, though; the game 4 years ago was in Baltimore too. I thought the sites were supposed to flip-flop.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 4:07pm

This injury sounds like a mercy killing on this season.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 4:14pm

Mr. Shush #18:

Teams run because they are winning and want to sit on the ball. Otherwise, in the first half, with most teams running is window-dressing to keep the defense honest while they pass for scores. Among the very few run the ball all the time teams are Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Basically, it comes down to pass twice run once in the first half, and run twice pass once int he second half if you are winning.

The correlation of 100 yard rushers to winning is due to the latter, not the former. You won't win many football games by running every other play or 2 plays out of 3 in the first half, because you won't score more than once or twice, and you generally won't win by only scoring 6-14 points.

There are even fewer games where the running back singlehandedly wins a high scoring game, as Tiki Barber did for the Giants yesterday while rushing for 200+ mostly first half yards. That's because 200 yard games are generally a 2-3 times per career type of thing for a running back, even on run oriented teams.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 4:18pm

Tom Kelso #29:

This is the first time that the Vikings and Ravens have played each other under the new schedule system. 4 years ago was 2001, and the old three division schedule.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 4:23pm

Millions of Fantasy Football geeks heave a sigh of relief. They can now start Josh McCown and not worry about the inevitable Culpepper 380 yard 3TD game that comes once you bench him.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 4:29pm

Minny @ Baltimore on Christmas night? I see the NFL has decided to extend the policy of giving me a nice, relaxing Lions game to fall asleep to during Thanksgiving with a similar game after christmas.

by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 4:32pm

I'm pretty sure Culpepper's season was done as soon as Randy Moss put on a Raiders jersey.

I feel bad for Daunte, who is by all accounts a very nice guy, but I really think the Vikings had all this coming to them. The collective hysteria over the Patriots and the intangibles that helped that team inevitably drove the media and a great many fans to overlook certain things, like the fact that the Patriots had no significant holes to speak of on their roster and that their star players were underrated. But no, the lesson was that team chemistry trumped all. So they dumped the most explosive player in the NFL and replaced him with a bad linebacker and a guy who played for South Carolina, and that was somehow going to cause the team to make a quantum leap. It was strange, truly strange.

One more note on Culpepper. One of the Minnesota local papers ended up printing the online gamertags of a number of Vikings players, Culpepper among them. So I went and checked out his Madden stats...they weren't very good. I know it's just a video game, but I would be pretty troubled by having my quarterback be terrible at Madden- it just reinforced my belief that DC doesn't see the field well and has been getting bailed out by Moss, who made it much easier on him.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 5:29pm

I think Minny's losses on the Offensive line have been at least as damaging as the loss of Moss.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 6:36pm

Sean, if the Vikings had drafted the best edge pass rusher available with the pick they got from the Raiders,and the best wr still available with their own 1st round pick, it would have helped considerably. If Birk had then been healthy, and they hadn't decided to go into the season with a completely untested left guard, they likely would have been very competitive.

Trading Moss was not in and of itself a bad move; this is the second year in a row in which we are seeing nagging injuries hamper his performance, and that trend will likely accelerate. If you are going to trade somebody for a high first round draft pick, however, it is advisable that one draft wisely.

by jds (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 7:02pm

Will, is the Vikes problem a hangover from last ownership - that is, the last owner wouldn't pay coaches, and I'm inferring that neither would he pay scouts, so that they couldn't do a proper evaluation and plan a draft for what they needed?

by Ben Roethlisberger (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 7:37pm

It's official now -- Terrible Triad as Will calls it, more commonly known as the Willis McGahee injury. Basically did everything short of actually severing his leg at the knee (actually, he pretty much did sever his leg at the knee, but the skin remained intact.)

He's likely to miss a sizeable chunk of next season, and it's going to be a full two years before he gets his mobility back.

If Brad Johnson goes down, you could see Jeff George actually ending up in Minnesota playing a few games near year's end.

Matt Leinart might want to not get too used to the weather in southern California.

by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 7:47pm

Link for injury details...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 8:29pm

jds, this franchise, which was not without problems in the past (it hasn't had a first-rate front office since the mid-70s), really has gone downhill since McCombs decided he wasn't going to get a taxpayer funded stadium. If an owner won't pay for functioning air-conditioning in the locker room, fer' cryin' out loud, you can bet it won't pay for enough competent people to be first-rate.

Everything, and I mean everything, has been run on a shoestring. Even the ballyhooed free-agent signings this year were structured to mostly come out of the new owner's wallet. In fact, the Vikings had a deal in pricipal to sign Antonio Pierce, but when they tried to delay fully paying the bonus until after the the sale closed, Pierce instead signed with the Giants.

Tice, who I agree is not HOF material (understatement), never really had a chance, what with going into the last year of his contract without an extension. An NFL coach needs to be able to instill fear in some way, and a guy with five months left on his contract just can't do it.

In retrospect, this franchise just managed to keep above average for a couple of decades, largely due to a couple of little known and now retired personnel guys, Frank Gilliam and Jerry Reichow, and some decent coaching by Dennis Green. As Green acquired more control over personnel, however, things became more spotty, and when McCombs lost interest, the bottom really fell out.

I'll be intersting to see in what direction Zyggi Wilf takes this team, after he cleans house in the first week of January.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 10:58pm

#31, I'm well aware of the general truth of what you say. What I'm suggesting is that if a team runs seldom enough or unsuccessfully enough, they fail to keep opponents honest, play action becomes ineffectual and failure to run the ball regularly and effectively becomes a contributory causal factor in their defeat. With Westbrook a healthy McNabb, it may be that the Eagles can run a passing offense so efficient that the sacrificing of play action is not an important factor. But in their present straits that seems no longer to be the case - I second those who believe the Eagles are now losing in part because they do not or cannot run. The situation in Minnesota is less clear, but painful Texans-watching experience leads me to believe very firmly that the value of credible play-action increases considerably when the pass-blocking is really dire - it then becomes the only way to reliably (well, more reliably. Well, less unreliably) give the quarterback time to throw. I think the combination of the infrequency with which the Vikings rush and the ineffectiveness of such runs as they do attempt is a significant factor (though by no means the only one) in their struggles in the passing game.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 12:36am

What is hard to quantify is how running effectively is intertwined with effective defense. A great running team is helpless if the team's defense allows three touchdowns on the opposition's first three possessions. I think it is within the realm of possibility that the Vikings could be a modestly effective running team, but their defense has had terrible first halfs in four of their seven games, thus ending the running attck as a viable option. Ya' can't know if a team is good at running the ball if the team's defense stinks, especially if it stinks in the first half.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 2:52am


I understand what you're saying, and there's certainly no question that Moss' injuries have limited his impact for the past two seasons. And there is no question that offensive line issues will derail an offense regardless of the caliber of the skill players (as a Jets fan, I'm getting to watch a depressing OL implosion of my own). But I always thought the degree to which Moss' presence dictated what the defense was going to do was profoundly underappreciated by people who happened not to like his attitude. Up until last season, Culpepper's decision making had always been a real question mark, and there was legitimate concern that radically downgrading the quality of the receiving corp would cause him to regress.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/01/2005 - 12:20pm

I don't disagree at all with you, Sean, about the advantage of having a wideout who dictates to a large degree what the defense will do. The equivalent on the other side of the ball is a defensive lineman or linebacker, usually from the edge, who the offensive coordinator must consider using two players to counteract on any given play.

My point is that Moss, as dominant as he has been, is likely on the path of increasing injuries, and thus it was not necessarily a bad time to trade him. The key, of course, was to get some value in return, which, given the baggage he carried, meant using the high first round draft pick effectively.

I thought that since the Vikings were going to have to be a more run-oriented team after Moss' departure, that they needed to become a much better defensive club. They attempted to do so through free agency, but without addressing their major defensive weakness, which has been the lack of an outside pass rush. They then drafted Erasmus James later in the first round, and he has done nothing.

Granted, losing Udeze for the season, who was starting to play well, was major blow, and Lance Johnstone, who has had a some moments as a pass rusher in previous seasons, has been greatly hampered by a pectoral injury. The linebackers, however, have been nothing short of hideous, and now the defensive backfield is collapsing, which is predicatble given the lack of a pass rush.

Now the season is in full collapse mode, and even if the coaching staff had the ability to make good adjustments, players aren't going to listen to coaches who are going to be gone in nine weeks. The only thing that remains to be seen is how deep Wilf's housecleaning will be. Does the entire football side of the business get canned?

My perception is that their v.p. in charge of cap management is pretty good. Beyond that, however, it is hard for an outsider to know if the talent evaluators have been severely hamstrung by previous ownership's tighfisted ways. Have they had adequate resources to scout well? Ya' got me, but certainly Wilf must be sorely tempted to empty the warehouse completely.

by someone (not verified) :: Tue, 12/06/2005 - 10:27pm

Gosh, the smartass comments by Tacoswell in #13 look pretty stupid now. Guess he'll be getting a lot of Christmad cards from the sports bookies?