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I Come Not to Bury Daunte Culpepper. . .

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. . .but to praise him.  You know, because this time in the season is still dead as a doornail.

Pro Football Reference has put together a pretty brilliant little piece on the Vikings' former signal caller.  It takes a look back at Daunte's 2004 season, and in the process pretty much destroys the "Randy Moss made Daunte Culpepper look good" theory that so many people with lesser intelligence seem to cling to so fervently.

A couple of passages:

Nate Burleson led the Vikings in receiving in 2004, not Randy Moss. But this just adds to the confusion for explaining how 5123 came about. Nate Burleson stinks. He's not any good. Despite being in the prime of his career and being handed starting roles, he's recorded only 520 yards since 2004. I'm not sure how you can start in 16 games, play in 12 others and only get 520 receiving yards, but Burleson did it. In 2006, Burleson ranked sixth among Seahawks WRs and TEs in receiving yards, despite the five men in front of him all missing games last year. And somebody once claimed that Nate Burleson may be the worst receiver to ever have 1,000 yards in a season. The explanation that Nate Burleson was a good receiver is simply not acceptable in deciphering how Daunte Culpepper set the NFL single season record for yards in 2004.

Nate Burleson made at least $7 million last year.  It might have been more.  But, based on $7 million, he made roughly $500K per reception and roughly $7 million per receiving touchdown.  I'm sure there are some people that are of the theory that he got that contract from the Seahawks based on the blistering 30 catches for 328 yards and 1 TD he got in 2005 with Brad Johnson rather than the 68 catches for 1,006 yards and 9 TD he got with Daunte Culpepper in 2004.

I, on the other hand, am of the mind that Nate Burleson should be sending Daunte Culpepper a Christmas card every year until one of them shuffles off this mortal coil.  "Daunte Culpepper made Nate Burleson" is a far more solid argument than "Randy Moss made Daunte Culpepper."

When thinking about who should set the all time record for yards in a season, here's what I envision. A great QB, two excellent wide receivers, a strong offensive line, good receiving but bad rushing RBs, and maybe a terrible defense. Or perhaps an extremely deep set of skill position players with great coaching and an accurate and mobile QB; a team that created tons of mismatches for defenses every week.

...

How would you describe the `04 Vikings? Their top WR (Nate Burleson) should be out of the league soon, their second WR is a Hall of Fame talent who was hurt for a good chunk of the season, the supporting cast of receivers and tight ends was largely retreads, the running backs were mediocre but with good hands, the defense stunk and the coaching wasn't any good. That hardly sounds like a recipe for excellence.

...

We know no QB has ever done as much (5123) as Culpepper did in one year. But has any QB ever done as much...with as little?

I'd be quite willing to say "no" to that last question.  They make the contrast to the 2000 Rams.  Let's compare what Kurt Warner had to work with that season compared to what Daunte Culpepper had to work with in '04, shall we?

Running Back
Rams:  Marshall Faulk - Only one of the greatest RBs ever.
Vikings:  4 different backs. . .Onterrio Smith (the team's leading rusher), Mewelde Moore, Moe Williams, and Michael Bennett.  By the way, Onterrio Smith was last seen getting cut from the Canadian Football League.

Advantage:  Rams.  As the old saying goes, "If you've got four running backs, you haven't got any."

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Rams - Isaac Bruce (Hall of Famer), Torry Holt (Hall of Famer), Az Hakim, Ricky Proehl
Vikings - Nate Burleson, Randy Moss (half a season's worth or so), Marcus Robinson, Kelly Campbell, Jermaine Wiggins

Advantage:  Rams.  And it's not close.

Coaching Staff
Rams:  Dick Vermeil (head coach) and Mike Martz (offensive coordinator)
Vikings:  Mike Tice (head coach) and Scott Linehan (offensive coordinator)

Advantage:  Rams.  While the gap between Martz and Linehan isn't as wide as some might think (in my opinion), Evil Knievel would have a hard time clearing the chasm between Tice and Vermeil.

It makes seeing the whole situation that Daunte is in now that much sadder.  If he can ever get back to 100%, I think he can get back to what he used to be.  I realize I'm one of about 5 people on the planet with this opinion, but I'll stick to it.  The guy had 4 bad games in 2005, and everyone wants to write off the rest of his career because of it.  Horse crap, I say.