The time has come for the Vikings to bench Dante Culpepper. While I'm not advocating giving up on him, his play this year is the primary reason that the Vikings are 1-5. It's difficult to understand what has gone wrong with Culpepper, but he is consistently making bad decisions, throwing into coverage, holding the ball too long, etc.
A key sequence in the loss to the Jets was a microcosm of the Vikings' season: After a beautiful 18-play drive left the Vikings with a third-and-goal situation, Culpepper forced the ball to receiver Chris Walsh down the middle, and the ball was picked off by a linebacker. Still trailing only 3-0, the Vikes had a chance if their defense could hold the Jets, who were backed up to their own 15-yard line. After a penalty and two runs for no gain, the Jets came up against a third-and-15 situation. The ball was caught for a 14-yard gain, with Tyrone Carter pushing the Jets receiver out of bounds just short of the first-down marker. The defense had held. But Carter went too far, slamming the receiver down out of bounds, a blatant foul, giving the Jets another 15 yards and a first down on their way to a 10-0 lead.
The message? The Vikings are not good enough to make mistakes. Time after time this season, Daunte Culpepper has made the key mistake, causing a below-average defense to try to keep the Vikings in the game. They can't, especially not when they add in bonehead plays.
Culpepper leads the league in turnovers. It's interesting that this is the case, because last year's poor play by Culpepper was blamed largely on an ineffective running game, forcing him to throw the ball when he had to, not when he wanted. That doesn't hold up this year. The Vikings came into the game as one of the top running teams in the league.
You can see though, that what the Vikings really want to do is throw the ball downfield. They've made their living that way for years; they have a great deep threat in Moss, and Culpepper has a strong arm. Defenses know that, eventually, the ball is going to Moss, open or not. You can practically set your watch by it.
Culpepper also seems to have trouble finding his secondary receivers. I attended he Seattle game, and you could see it clearly, locking in on one receiver, not looking off the defense. Mike Tice has challenged his quarterback to be a student of the game, and it just isn't happening.
I say sit him down. Not for good, because he can turn it around and play better. The guy is enormously talented. Let Todd Bouman come in for a couple of games and run the offense, and let Culpepper watch.
He may see that timing and rhythm are more important than raw ability, and I wouldn't be surprised if Bouman outplayed Daunte and gave the Vikings a better chance to win some games, at least in the short term. Not that winning games matters at this point in the season, because the Vikings' season is effectively over. Culpepper has to understand that the main job of a quarterback is to protect the ball and get his teammates involved.
Another reason for the Vikings to bench him is that the team cannot afford for the rest of the players to get down because the quarterback is playing poorly. Human nature is to not try when you think you have no effect on the outcome. The Vikings can't have the team give up because the quarterback is handing the games away.
The Vikings will go nowhere with Culpepper playing the way he is now; the situation will only get worse. Culpepper will not get better until he learns to stop forcing the ball into coverage. If they sit him down for a few games, it will probably help everyone involved, including the guy who may just need a different perspective.
Opinion: Give Him A Rest?
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