Analysis: Culpepper Start Could Be His Last

Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper is starting Saturday's exhibition opener, but it's out of respect for the veteran, rather than a competitive gauge for the position. That has been determined already, writes publisher Nate Caminata.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is calling it a rotation.

It isn't a prognostication. It shouldn't be used to gauge a depth chart.

"It's just a rotation," he confirmed.

Yes, Daunte Culpepper will start at quarterback during Saturday preseason kick-off against the Atlanta Falcons. But he isn't the starter. And don't assume Schwartz is telling fibs, half-truths, or masking his ultimate plan. He isn't concealing the identity of his regular season starter with vague conjecture.

Rather, he might be doing a veteran quarterback some justice.

It is obvious to anyone that has spent longer than one practice session at Detroit's training camp headquarters in Allen Park that rookie Matthew Stafford has been the superior quarterback. He has a better arm, better mobility, better accuracy, and seemingly, a better grasp on the offense.

As he should. Stafford's collegiate exploits have been well-documented, and it's been repeated ad nauseum the scouting department's unanimous support of his Motor City induction back in April.

So it isn't that Culpepper has floundered; he's simply been outplayed. This isn't lost on Schwartz, who understands that Culpepper, a veteran that has risen from the ashes of retirement into a near-replica of his former star, has earned due diligence.

Stafford, however, has not.

The exhibition season has caught grief for what it is: glorified practices that can most times do more harm than good. It's a league relic, and kept around primarily for the preseason marketing push that whets the appetite of even the most casual football fan. But what gives it wheels is the media's attention: exhibition highlights conquer the regular season clips of other professional leagues, and even league analysts that know better do the only thing they know how to do: overanalyze.

Especially in the case of exhibition openers.

Albeit limited, Culpepper does have more history with the franchise than Stafford. He also has more history with the league, and his relevance is fading rather quickly. The moment Stafford is given the reigns as the No. 1 quarterback, he just might not let go.

That could happen next week.

In the political arena, Stafford would still be the Quarterback-Elect. After amassing a career that most quarterbacks could only dream to achieve, Culpepper retains the title, even the honor, until Stafford takes what is rightfully his.

Schwartz will put Stafford into Saturday's game in the second quarter. Drew Stanton will get mop-up duty, which should include the better part of the second half. It won't affect chemistry, and it won't slow Stafford's development, who lacks neither the ego nor competence to make the entire franchise his own by week one.

"We're just going to give them reps," said Schwartz. "We'll probably flip it the next week, see a lot of different things, and like I said from the very beginning, we're going to try and put guys in a lot of different positions - try to shake things up as much as possible."

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