Alex Wood joined the Vikings in 1999 as a position coach at the most important position on the field, according to popular opinion. It was also considered a position of great depth in his first season. Not only did he coach the 1998 Miller Lite Player of the Year in Randall Cunningham, but he had two first-round draft picks (Jeff George and Daunte Culpepper) behind Cunningham and talented third-year quarterback Todd Bouman.
Now there is far less grooming with Culpepper, as he has gained a better command of the NFL and the Vikings offense. Culpepper made the offense even more versatile when he went to the Pro Bowl in his first season as a starter in 2000. This year, Bouman is the primary backup and undrafted rookie Shaun Hill is the third-stringer.
Wood was previously the head coach at James Madison from 1995-98. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Wake Forest for two years. From 1989-92 he coached at the University of Miami. He was also a position coach with Washington State, Wyoming and Southern University.
Q: How would you assess Daunte Culpepper's play through the preseason and start of the regular season?
A: In the preseason we thought he was playing well and doing some good things for us. Obviously in the first game (a 27-23 loss to the Bears), it didn't go as well as we wanted it to. He played good, but probably three bad decisions in that game makes it turn out to be not such a good performance. But you have to decipher through all of that as a coach and a player and take out the positive things that you did and build on that. Then you have to learn from the things you made mistakes on and build on that and get better. That's what I know Daunte is going to do and will do. I think you will see throughout the rest of the year a much improved player, and he'll continue to get better as time goes on.
Q: What types of things are you trying to build on with Culpepper?
A: Just basic football stuff, situational football, making the best decisions in certain situations. I think some of the other things, from a mechanics standpoint I thought he did well (against the Bears). I thought he anticipated some routes well. He was late on a couple of routes, but I think those kinds of things are going to happen from time to time for different reasons. Really, it's just decision-making and situational football.
Q: Culpepper seemed to really take responsibility after the Bears loss, especially for the late interception he threw that led to the winning touchdown. Does that make you happy as a coach to see a player do that?
A: Absolutely, because he's able to take constructive criticism, whether it be from coaches or from himself. He understands.
Q: Todd Bouman struggled at times in the preseason. What is your feeling of where he is at?
A: Todd didn't finish with a great preseason … but he didn't get the chance to play with [the first-teamers] very much. You get kind of a skewed evaluation because of that. But I think he's on pace and on target and on schedule, so that if he does have to play I know from a mental standpoint he knows what to do, and from a physical standpoint he can do it. Now it's just a matter of going out and actually executing it in game circumstances.
Q: How important is it for him to play with the first-teamers?
A: Obviously, it's important so we can get a true evaluation of where he is at. That's really about it.
Q: How is third-string quarterback Shaun Hill coming along?
A: Shaun is a young player, and we are still in the developmental process with him. It's a work in progress. I think he's as far along as any rookie in terms of learning and things like that. But, again, you wouldn't know until he had to play.
Q: But you were impressed with him in training camp, right?
A: Absolutely. From the time he came here in minicamp until we finished training camp, he improved at every phase in every facet. At every level he got better.
Q: Where do his greatest strengths lie and where are you working with him the most?
A: We are just trying to work with him on some of his intermediate throws. Just getting them there on time and having the velocity they need to have to get there … footwork and things like that. But he makes good decisions, he can pull the trigger and places the ball nicely on some of the deeper throws. He does a really nice job with that. That's his strength. He sees the field well.
Q&A: With QBs coach Alex Wood
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