"I have a great amount of respect for Scott (Linehan). He and I are really in tune with what we are doing and I feel that he gives me the best opportunity to grow and improve as the quarterback of this team," Culpepper said. "Not making any excuses, but with all the changes that have been made here, Scott provides a great amount of insight and helps me work through some of the mistakes that I have made."
Following a slow start to the 2002 season, which there were numerous calls for Culpepper to be replaced, the quarterback came back to have a solid run positive performances down the home-stretch of the season. Many people within the organization believe that the close association that Culpepper and Linehan had late in the season when Linehan assumed the quarterbacks coach duties had everything to do with the turnaround play of the quarterback.
"If you look at how Daunte (Culpepper) thoughout the season, you would not believe the type of rollercoaster season he had and how he was able to rebound," a team source said. "As an offense we were not as fluid as we should have been or needed to be. Daunte (Culpepper) struggled and his confidence wavered somewhat, that is only natural. He didn't question his talent or those of his teammates, but he really began to press. As a leader, he put a tremendous amount of pressure upon himself, which led him to play a bit less aggressively than we would have liked."
"By the end of the season, Daunte and Linehan were working very closely and the improvement was astounding."
As the season progressed, the Vikings as a team improved and the consistency the team expected from their quarterback improved as well.
"If you look back at the season, you'll see that in the early going Daunte (Culpepper) strugged at times and make mistakes. Some of the mistakes were magnified because we weren't playing well as a team overall, there was little room for error," Linehan said. "As the season progressed, the number of mistakes decreased dramatically and we were much more efficient as an offense. When we had gotten to the point where the number of mistakes were minimal, we were explosive as an offensive unit."
"Heading into the upcoming season, we are working hard to improve our consistency. We have a great group of guys here that really believe we are on the verge of something special here."
Coming off an offseason where Culpepper has signed a long-term contract extension, the Vikings have high expectations of Culpepper. Confident that Culpepper can regain the form that made him one of the most explosive talents in the game just a couple seasons ago, the Vikings are banking on more of the success that Culpepper and Vikings tasted late in the 2002 season.
"Daunte (Culpepper) has put in a serious amount of film study this offseason with me," Linehan. "He knows how important preparation is and he appears to really have a grasp on what we want to do as an offense. His reads are better and he is learning to throw the ball away is an option, rather than forcing the issue at times when the team can suffer."
"As Daunte (Culpepper) matures this team will become even better, from where we have come in the past year, 2003 will be an interesting season."