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  Dolphins Get Lucky With Daunte
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule |  

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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Some say that it is better to be lucky than good.


In the NFL, you’d better be good. To become great, you need some luck along the way. Finding Tom Brady in the sixth round of the draft is a primo example.


As we all know, the Dolphins have had very little luck with quarterbacks in the years since Dan Marino retired. Finally, thankfully, fortune seems to have smiled on them.



On paper, the acquisition of Daunte Culpepper from the Minnesota Vikings is the biggest heist from the Men in Purple since Jimmy Johnson fleeced Mike Lynn in the Herschel Walker trade. The Dolphins gave up a second round pick (51st overall) in exchange for a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback in the prime of his career.


If that isn’t legalized theft, what is?


It was very clear that Culpepper wanted out of Minnesota. He was disgruntled with new coach Brad Childress, no longer trusted owner Zygi Wilf, and was being criticized by the public for his role in the now infamous Love Boat incident as well as the team’s sloppy 2-5 start. An exchange of poisonous e-mails between the Vikings and Culpepper, with some of the content making its way to the media, greased the rails for his trip out of town.


The Dolphins were only too happy to welcome him. It helped that the price was right and that Culpepper was willing to restructure his contract in a more cap-friendly way.


Nick Saban was so convinced of the correctness of acquiring Culpepper that he set aside his “draft first” philosophy to do it. For those not in the know, this is as strong a statement of confidence as you will ever get from Saban on any personnel move he will ever make involving a high draft pick.


It is reassuring to see that Saban is confident in the deal because it comes with some real risk.


First off, Culpepper’s knee is not 100% and may never be again. This is a real worry because one of Culpepper’s greatest assets is his rare combination of size (6-4, 265) and running ability. Yes, the Dolphin doctors checked his knee, seriously damaged when he ruptured three ligaments. Culpepper even claims to be ahead of schedule, to have started running. Still, until we see him on the field, doing his old thing, we just won’t know.


Secondly, he’s coming off of his worst season as a pro, tossing twice as many picks (12) as TDs (6) for a 72.0 QB rating. Granted, Culpepper was saddled behind a bad offensive line, was without Randy Moss (Oakland), and faced a lot of negative distraction off the field. Still, at the end of the day, these are just excuses for poor play.


Finally, it is troubling to note that the Vikings were just 2-5 before Culpepper was injured while back-up Brad Johnson was able to lead the team to a 7-2 mark over the balance of the season. Why was Johnson, a lesser talent, able to have success where Culpepper was not?


From the Dolphins’ perspective, they believe that 2005 was simply an aberration. Culpepper ranks in the Top 5 all-time in terms of career passer rating, having posted his career-best 110.9 in 2004. In his six seasons he has made the Pro Bowl three times. It is this consistent success over a reasonably long period of time that convinced the Dolphins to go with Culpepper.


Culpepper brings credibility and credentials to a position sorely lacking in same for all these many years since Dangerous Dan retired. As Saban said,”This is a big part of the puzzle”.


He’s right. Grouped with Chris Chambers, Randy McMichael, Marty Booker, Ronnie Brown, new left tackle L.J. Shelton, and maybe Ricky Williams, the Dolphins may, at long last, have the offensive firepower to legitimately challenge the Patriots and Steelers for divisional and conference superiority.


Sticking with Gus Frerotte would have been a caretaker move that might have turned out OK. We’ll never know. What we do know is the Dolphins had no shot at a World Championship under his command. They do with Culpepper.


If the Dolphins win a championship under Saban, it will be this trade that people will undoubtedly point to as a difference maker.


It would be terrific to be able to get some extensive and specific insight directly from Culpepper on this whole whirlwind week, the week that has taken the Dolphins fortunes up a notch. Alas, Saban’s sometimes silly policy of limited contact with players and coaches robs us of the opportunity.


For now, it’s enough to know that the Dolphins solved their top need and did it better than anyone could have realistically hoped for.


Culpepper is, without a doubt, one of the best in the business.


The Dolphin offense is, once again, a dangerous threat.


Now the serious fun can begin.




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