2003 NFL Preview

Culpepper tries to reclaim past magic

Posted: Wednesday July 09, 2003 12:00 PM
  Daunte Culpepper Daunte Culpepper led the NFL with 23 interceptions last season. M. David Leeds/Getty Images

By B. Duane Cross,

Three years ago, the sky was the limit for the Minnesota Vikings' Daunte Culpepper. The second-year QB threw for 3,937 yards and 33 touchdowns (and only 13 picks) with an impressive 98.0 QB rating.

In his next 27 games, Culpepper threw 32 TDs and 36 INTs. Also of concern, his yards per attempt fell from 8.3 in 2000 to 7.1 in '01 to 7.0 last year.

So what went wrong?

Departures on the offensive line may be the biggest factor, but many times Culpepper also takes it upon himself to make something happen. Eighteen of his 23 interceptions last season came when the Vikings needed 10-plus yards for a first down.

"Great competitors like Daunte Culpepper can be their own worst enemy because they'll try to make amends for a mistake like right away," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press last year. "In his mind, if we had a turnover that turned into points for them, he's going to try to get those points back because he feels so accountable. But it doesn't work that way.

"He's learning to stay aggressive, and you don't take away his play-making ability. But people test your patience; that's when you have to be the most patient. That's the hardest thing for a quarterback to learn."

Along with pressing to make a play, Culpepper runs into trouble -- or into the opposition's rush. After being sacked 34 times in 2000 and 33 times in '01, he was dropped 47 times last year, the third-highest total in the NFL behind David Carr of the expansion Texans and the Bills' notoriously immobile Drew Bledsoe.

Nonetheless, the Vikings have cast their lot with Culpepper; he signed a 10-year extension worth up to $102 million if he meets all the incentives.

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