No Turning Back

Culpepper’s Adjustment
By Zack Cimini

The mark an athlete leaves in the record books is always distinguished with rave reviews and classic playbacks. Combinations of greats though are even rarer, and when they come along it adds another level of mystique. Jerry Rice and Joe Montana was the number one combo during their years, and today’s football world only one that comes to mind. That belongs to Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. They’ve had non-stop chemistry like a continuing assembly line that just keeps retuning and staying strong.

There was another budding combination brewing to be great, involving Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. Since Culpepper entered the league in 1999, the duo had a soaring fifty plus connections for touchdowns. They both fed off each other, and sometimes let their emotions get the best of each other. Still, the Moss ratio remained the Vikings game plan and there was nothing opposing defenses could do.

In the past, Culpepper was struggling with fumbling problems and making poor decisions at pivotal times. It looked like it would plague his career forever, until he finally grew up when his lifeline wasn’t there. When Moss went down mid way through last season, it looked bleak for Culpepper and the Vikings offense. Lets not forget, the Vikings were using a trio of running backs just to try to generate a rushing attack, and Marcus Robinson was now going to have to be a main option. Marcus Robinson hadn’t been heard from since his career year with Chicago.

The Vikings did lose a lot of close games, but it wasn’t Culpepper’s fault. He played brilliantly, and showed off his arm even more than Peyton Manning. He led the entire NFL with almost 4,800 yards passing. That was close enough to almost knock Dan Marino’s yardage totals out of the book. His vision just became clearer, and he reached that level where the pace of the game finally slows down in a quarterback’s head. He started seeing things that are only open for a split second, which only great quarterbacks see. The bonus of an above average offensive line, and his threat to scramble also helped tremendously.

Moss and Culpepper’s feuding in the off-season is nothing but bitter sentiment for each other. They both realize they’re great players, and could have had something special. There is no doubt that they both have eight to ten years left in them, and that would have put them in a stat book of their own. Now, it’s just a wishful thought, as we’ll never know what could have happened. The scary thing is that Culpepper’s skills are just starting to peak, and Moss will come into this year fully healthy. 2005 could have been a trademark year for both athletes, and in a different realm.

Change is always going to happen as things happen for a reason. Both athletes are going to miss each other, like a couple split that still has deep feelings for each other. Moss is going to have to adjust to a different scheme and quarterback for the first time in over five years. Any receiver and quarterback will tell you a bond isn’t there initially. Timing is off, and the sequential steps have to be taken again like a rookie. So in a sense, it may be harder for Moss to adjust than Culpepper.

A statistical dip for both athletes is likely to happen this season, and is a big risk for any fantasy owner to take with a first round pick. Becoming accustomed in a new setting doesn’t happen over night, and grasping a favorite go to guy doesn’t as well. Both will endure struggles that will have a hot and cold pattern all next season.


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