Culpepper: Inside the Numbers

There is always a lot of chatter around the city of Jacksonville about the Jaguars quarterbacks. This time, however, it's not your typical Byron Leftwich and David Garrard (even sometimes the Enigma Quinn Gray is thrown in) debate that seems to dominate. It's about the prospect of bringing in Daunte Culpepper.

On June 13th, Jaguars back up quarterback David Garrard confirmed the interest of Culpepper at the Jaguars post-OTA practice press conference when he informed the media he had met with the team and they informed him that they would strongly consider pursuing Daunte Culpepper should he be released. "Yeah, they talked to me. Dirk [Koetter] did. He said it didn't have anything to do with [my] status. He [Koetter] just wanted to make sure we knew it was true." Garrard told reporters.

While there are plenty of reasons to want to bring in a quarterback of Daunte Culpepper's talents aboard, there are just as many reasons against bringing him to the Jaguars. The first, is that you do not know how healthy Daunte Culpepper is. He was cleared by the Dolphins medical staff at the start of the 2005 season and played only four games before being replaced by Dolphins back up, Joey Harrington. It was quite obvious in those four games that Daunte Culpepper was not even close to being ready to go. He completed a career low 60.4% of his passes and was sacked 21 times in those 4 games. Mobility was a big part of Daunte Culpepper's game before the knee injury, and that mobility is seemingly extinct. Now, at the start of the 2007 OTA's, the Miami Dolphins medical staff has once again cleared Culpepper for practice even after he had clean up surgery to a damaged knee cap in the off-season. This was the same Dolphins medical staff that decided Drew Brees, coming off surgery on his throwing shoulder, was more of a risk and less further along than Daunte Culpepper, who blew out his knee in week seven of the 2005 season against the Carolina Panthers. It's also the same Miami Dolphins medical staff who drafted a one-footed kick returner in last April's draft ninth overall, but that's another story. Clearly the verdict on Culpepper's knee is still out. If Culpepper's knee isn't close to being 100%, he loses a big aspect of his game. While he's not Michael Vick, he used his size and mobility to avoid the rush and sacks to create more passing opportunities. Without his mobility, his passing ability leaves a lot to be desired.

Another wrench in the gears of the Culpepper machine is that you do not know how effective he will be without perennial pro-bowl receiver Randy Moss. While Randy Moss' years in Oakland can easily be defined as a failure, Culpepper's days without Moss can be ruled the same. Many of Culpepper's supporters point to his 2004 season in which Culpepper was the MVP runner up only to Peyton Manning, who was on his way to owning all of Dan Marino's passing records. In 2004, Culpepper put up an astonishing 4,700 passing yards, 39 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, completed 69.2% of his passes, and added another 406 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. Many people will point to the fact that Randy Moss only hauled in 49 receptions, nearly 800 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns and claim he was not the reason for Culpepper's success. This opinion is somewhat misguided when you take into consideration the infamous "Randy Ratio", that former Vikings head coach and now Jaguars Assistant Head Coach - Offense (aka offensive line/tight ends coach) Mike Tice came up with. The "Randy Ratio" was an offensive plan to get 40% of the Vikings offensive plays in Randy Moss' direction. Now, while Randy Moss didn't even catch 40% of Culpepper's passes in 2004, he was a huge factor in the rest of the passing game's success. Randy Moss regularly required double, sometimes even triple teaming on any given play. If you manned up with Randy Moss, short of being Deion Sanders in his prime, you were going to get beat. Teams had to concentrate nearly 50-75% of their secondary to Randy Moss' direction. What this did was free up a ton of open field for the other Vikings receivers such as Nate Burleson, who had a career year in 2004. Since 2004 however (Moss' last season in Minnesota), Burleson's last two seasons combined (with the Vikings and Seahawks) is barely 50% of his 2004 production. Marcus Robinson, another beneficiary of Moss' defensive demand, had a resurgence in his career only to have it taper off as soon as Moss left. Each year Randy Moss was on the Vikings, every receiver with the exception of Cris Carter, who would normally be a mediocre at best, saw big spikes in production. As soon as Moss left, so did their apparent skills, as the Vikings witnessed in 2005 when their leading receivers were now Jaguars tight end Jermaine Wiggins, and wide receiver Travis Taylor.

Adding to the issue of the "Randy Ratio" was the type of offense, former Vikings offensive coordinator and now St. Louis Rams head coach, Scott Linehan ran. Many people refer to Daunte Culpepper's high completion percentage, but if you look closer, there is a reason it's ballooned. Sticking with the 2004 season and Culpepper's 69% completion percentage, he had four (4) running backs with 200 or more receiving yards. Running backs alone accounted for 52% of Culpepper's passes in 2004. This can also be seen in Culpepper's past seasons under Linehan in 2002 and 2003 when the running back combined for 60+ catches, and in 2003 Moe Williams had 65 receptions himself. It is even further evident after last year with the Rams, running back Steven Jackson had 90 receptions, only 3 behind the team leader Torry Holt. In 2005 once Randy Moss was lost, Daunte Culpepper looked like a rookie all over again. In only seven games, he threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns, 12/6 respectively. He was sacked 31 times in those seven games, and to top it all off, when Culpepper went down with his knee injury, quarterback Brad Johnson came in relief and had a very good season completing 63% of his passes and throwing for nearly 1,900 yards with 14 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Usually Culpepper's advocates point to the Vikings unloading talent while trying to be sold as an excuse for Culpepper's short comings, but it raises a big question mark when a journeyman level quarterback like a 37 year old Brad Johnson can come in and easily outperform him.

All of these things mentioned above, when also combined with the fact that under Daunte Culpepper the Vikings have a record of 41-45 and are only 2-2 in the playoffs, leaves all of his big-time numbers somewhat insignificant. It's unclear to me what people think Culpepper brings to the table that Byron Leftwich, David Garrard, and Quinn Gray don't bring to the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's certainly not consistency or the ability to stay on the field. At this point in time it's safe to say Byron Leftwich is less of a health risk than Daunte Culpepper, and that's saying quite a bit, especially when Byron Leftwich has missed 16 of the past 22 regular season games. I won't even bother going into detail about the storm of media and perceived quarterback controversy that will come with Daunte Culpepper, but for the risk involved, the Jaguars would be better served to keep the quarterbacks on their roster who we know are at least healthy enough to take the field.

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