View Full Version : Local Columnists Weigh In (Pep, long read)

11-30-2003, 06:24 PM
From the Barrerio column on Startribune.com:
(like it for those of us in that third camp [8D])

On the Daunte Culpepper referendum, there seem to be only two valid positions.

You're with him.

You're against him.

If you're against him, you didn't wait until the last couple of games to rail on him. You made a fool of yourself by ripping him even as he started the 2003 season with a flourish. You will not acknowledge that with 33 offensive touchdowns, the Vikings rank No. 3 in the league, ahead of the Colts, Titans and Rams.

Historically, this has been your tack:

When the Vikings offense has run like a Lamborghini, you've generally said, "With all those weapons, how can he possibly look bad?"

When the Vikings offense has run like a Yugo, you've said: "So what if he doesn't have as many weapons as he used to? It's up to the quarterback to raise everybody's level of play."

If the occasional e-mail can be believed, some of you are perfectly capable of muttering reprehensible racial slurs.

If you're with Culpepper, you are not capable of acknowledging that for much of the 2001 and 2002 seasons, he played poorly. You blame all of the struggles on the supporting cast, though when the Vikings had a better offense, you gave most of the credit to Culpepper.

If the occasional e-mail can be believed, you assume that anybody who takes even a mild verbal swipe at Culpepper must have a white hood and an agenda, just because a few letter-writers to Vikings coach Mike Tice have both.

The Vikings will play the Rams on Sunday in St. Louis. For those who represent the entrenched polar extremes on the Culpepper referendum, this game is meaningless. Nothing the quarterback does -- good or bad -- will matter.

Yet, for those of us who like to think we belong to a third category, Sunday could mean much more: road game. Given this is a road game against a troublesome opponent, and the Vikings have the opportunity to re-take control in the NFC North, this is the kind of crossroads game (for team and player) that can cement our confidence in him, or elevate our nagging concerns. (This is built on the admittedly dangerous premise that the Vikings defense will not render all other issues moot.)

Who is in this third category? Well, some of us would like to think we are folks who see Culpepper not in terms of black or white but shades of gray. We look around the league and see the utter dearth of legitimate, long-term quarterback candidates and understand fully why the Vikings might pledge themselves to Culpepper, a much more talented alternative.

Consider the NFC North. Green Bay has Brett Favre, a Hall of Famer, yet not even the most delusional Packers fans can deny that Ahman Green has become the team MVP.

The Lions continue to force-feed the overmatched Joey Harrington, who followed a solid first half Thursday by trying to give away the game.

The Bears acquired Kordell Stewart, who performed so abominably that they had to bench him in favor of the broken Chris Chandler.

Those of us in the third group on the Culpepper referendum look at those options and say that long-term, the Vikings' current quarterback at age 27 represents a better one.

Yet, we also believe that Culpepper is far from established as an NFL heavyweight. Until he attains that status regularly, there will be some doubt. That messy process is no different for any NFL quarterback.

Not that it started messy for Culpepper. Given his inexperience, his first season was nothing short of remarkable.

The next two seasons he was erratic at best. In 2003, he has started brilliantly, but tailed off. On Oct. 26, the Vikings scored only one touchdown in the second half against the Giants. On Nov. 9, they trailed by 21 to the Chargers before the offense made a push. On Nov. 16, they trailed 21-3 before the offense made a push. Last Sunday, the defense outscored the offense 14-10. Culpepper shares responsibility.

His passer ratings remain gaudy, but lately he has alternated between being a quarterback who is thinking too much on one series and not enough on the next.

It could well be more growing pains, but nobody should have to apologize for articulating the deficiencies. Given his salary and his promise, Culpepper must consistently become more than a quarterback who doesn't lose games, but one who consistently wins them.

Protective Vikings coaches and players react so vociferously to any criticism of Culpepper they unwittingly perpetuate the notion that he's somehow too fragile to handle the extraneous noise that always comes with such a high-profile job. As Tice, who wisely backed away from his silly no-more-quarterback talk, might be starting to figure out, that does Culpepper a disservice.

11-30-2003, 09:25 PM

11-30-2003, 10:50 PM