Thursday, February 16, 2006

Daunte's inferno may be flaming out.

The 1999 NFL draft for our Minnesota Vikings is one which will live in infamy.

Just three months removed from that devastating overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game, the Vikes should have been looking to the draft to reload. The one glaring weakness they had was on the defensive side of the ball. With the Vikes having two first round picks, it was a certainty they would be able to shore up the defense.

Their initial first round selection would be the number 11 overall pick, thanks to a trade with the Washington Redskins. Ironically it was quarterback Brad Johnson, Minnesota’s current backup QB, who was sent to the Skins in that deal. After all, Johnson had become expendable after his injury in the second week of the 1998 season. That injury opened the door for Randall Cunningham, leading to an MVP performance for a record-setting offense in terms of points scored. The Vikings also had the #28 pick overall, a selection then coach Dennis Green referred to as a “bonus pick” (When the bizarre Dimitrius Underwood was selected at #28, Green must have meant “bogus” pick).

As with any NFL draft, the speculation runs rampant as to whom a team will select with its first round pick. In ’99 for the Vikings, the consensus on the #11 pick was standout Defensive End Jevon Kearse out of Florida.

So when NFL Commish Paul Tagliabue came to the podium, I was glued to the TV set.

With the eleventh pick the 1999 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings select…


The initial reaction I had was the one where Charlie Brown attempts to kick the football and shrieks “UUUGGGGHHH” as he flies through mid-air.

Yes, it was a rather inauspicious beginning to Culpepper’s career in Minnesota.

Personally, I grew to like Daunte Culpepper as a player. I felt he was the cornerstone of what would be a winning football team for years to come. I endorsed the Randy Moss trade last year when I recalled how Culpepper flourished without Moss in the lineup for five games in 2004. Combine that with Moss becoming the equivalent to a Terrell Owens without the work ethic and it became clear to me that jettisoning Moss was the right move.

Under offensive coach Scott Linehan, Culpepper amassed two of the greatest statistical seasons (2003-04) put forth by a QB. After the ’04 season, the hot rumor was that Linehan would move on to the Miami Dolphins to sign a 3-year, $2.8 million deal as their offensive coordinator. Culpepper publicly lobbied for some sort of deal to keep Linehan in the fold.

As it appears now, Daunte was pleading for his career.

Before getting his knee shredded in Week 8 last season against the Carolina Panthers, Culpepper looked completely lost. It was almost as if everything he learned under Linehan had somehow faded away. However, the knee-jerk reaction amongst most fans was that Culpepper’s struggles were directly attributed to Randy Moss being gone. That is an argument for another day.

What we do know is what Kevin Seifert reported in today’s Star Tribune:

Culpepper, who fired agent Mason Ashe last month, represented himself during a gathering that also included owner Zygi Wilf, other members of his ownership group, coach Brad Childress and Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski. Culpepper, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, asked that approximately $10 million be added to his contract this season -- increasing his total 2006 compensation to a staggering $18 million.

The fact Culpepper was seeking such a ridiculous amount of money after a 2005 season which saw his performance regress and then him tearing three ligaments in his knee, I’m lead to believe he was seeking a trade.

Rumor has it that Daunte had a much more…uh…”active” role in the boat party scandal that plagued the Vikings franchise last season.

Given the uncertainty surrounding Culpepper’s physical well-being as well as his part in the Lake Minnetonka boating incident, it might be best for all concerned that he get a fresh start elsewhere.

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