QB deal a slam dunk?

So the Dolphins finally got their franchise quarterback. Feels like forever since they've had one of those. Many fans have been frustrated by Miami's merry-go-round at quarterback since Dan Marino retired — guys like Damon Huard, Jay Fiedler, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, Sage Rosenfels and Gus Frerotte have all taken snaps.

But one has to wonder — is this really a slam dunk?

Daunte Culpepper is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He was the 11th overall selection in the 1999 draft and has started 80 of the 81 games he has played in. He's thrown for over 20,000 yards, has 135 touchdowns, 86 interceptions and a passer rating of 91.5. That passer rating is actually fifth-best in NFL history. He is big, strong and athletic. He is a Florida native who is coming home. But still ...

One has to wonder how much of last year was simply an aberration? Culpepper took part in the infamous "Love Boat" scandal, which we don't need to rehash once again. On the field, Culpepper and the Vikings were terrible, starting last season by going 2-5, with Culpepper throwing only six touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Granted, the Vikings offense was horrendous to begin with. The offensive line was in disarray and couldn't block anybody. The running game was a non-factor and the wideouts were too inconsistent. Some have even claimed that the players knew they were playing for a lame-duck coach in Mike Tice and didn't give their all. Was it a coincidence that Culpepper's worst year was the one in which Randy Moss was no longer hauling in his passes?

But you know what? That's all an excuse. All of it. New Orleans — they had excuses to make last year, not Minnesota. Want to know how you know it's not legitimate? Look at Brad Johnson.

After Culpepper went down with three torn ligaments in his knee in October, the Vikings turned to the 37-year-old Johnson to lead the way. Johnson was never really known as a top-tier quarterback, and yet, he completely turned the offense around. While throwing for 12 touchdowns and only four interceptions, he spearheaded a 7-2 record the rest of the way and a strong push toward the playoffs.

So explain how Johnson was able to overcome all of the terrible things that Culpepper couldn't? In truth, there is no explanation.

Everyone is due a down year here or there. Hell, Jason Taylor only had 8.5 sacks in 2001 and then exploded for 18.5 the next year. But was it really one down year for Culpepper?

Admittedly, I feel better about a quarterback like Culpepper who is recovering from an injured knee than a QB like Drew Brees who is recovering from shoulder surgery. We've all seen what Chad Pennington's throws look like these days and who wants that?

Culpepper has the talent. No one questions that. But there are question marks with this deal. Is that knee going to be the same, and if so, at what point? What can we take from his performance last year? If he can't practice at all during the summer, how long will it take him to pick up new offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey's scheme once he does return?

From this vantage point, there is cautious optimism. What Dolphins fan isn't enticed at the prospect of Chris Chambers running down the field to catch up to Culpepper rockets, instead of Chambers having to come to a stop and out-leap a corner for the ball? What fan doesn't want to see Culpepper rumbling down the sideline and actually trucking a linebacker, instead of the other way around? What fan isn't sick of clamoring for the backup quarterback to be inserted simply because "how much worse can he be?"

Dolphins fans should be excited, but don't necessarily buy your Super Bowl tickets just yet.

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