We're getting to the end of the 30 Day Challenge, and we haven't touched on the most important position on the field to this point, so let's go ahead and remedy that now.
Who is your favorite Minnesota Vikings quarterback?
For me, if I continue to stick to the guys that I've actually be able to seen live, I can't go with Fran Tarkenton. . .I've only seen him play through the magic of NFL Films. (As has been the case for most of this, I'm sure many of our longer-tenured fans will more than make up for that.) So, out of all of the quarterbacks that I've seen put on the purple during my time of being a fan, there's one guy that stood out above all the rest.
When the Minnesota Vikings traded away Brad Johnson after the 1998 season, they needed a younger option at quarterback. They had 35-year old Randall Cunningham running the show, and they brought in 32-year old Jeff George to compete with him. But, as had been the case since Tarkenton retired, the team was looking for a young quarterback to develop that could be their long-term answer. And, with the 11th pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, they got that guy in Central Florida quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
Culpepper was a total anomaly in 1999. At 6'5" and about 260 pounds, he was able to move around like a much smaller quarterback while still maintaining a huge throwing arm. He didn't see any significant time in his rookie year, as Cunningham was benched early in the season and George took the Vikings to the playoffs. But after the 1999 season, Cunningham and George both moved on, and coach Dennis Green. . .after a brief flirtation with the possibility of bringing in Dan Marino. . .eventually handed the reigns to Culpepper.
The Vikings went to the NFC Championship Game in Culpepper's first season as a starter, but then he had a couple of rough seasons in 2001 and 2002, including a season-ending knee injury in 2001. He started really putting things together in 2003, as he finished the season with 29 total touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. His best season, however, was the season he put together in 2004.
People generally don't realize just how good Culpepper's 2004 season was. . .anyone that needs the proper perspective on it can read this post from Pro Football Reference about what he accomplished that year. Long story short, with basically half a Randy Moss and not a whole lot else, Culpepper might have put together the best season a Minnesota Vikings' quarterback has ever had. He accounted for 41 total touchdowns (39 of which came through the air) and just 11 interceptions. He wound up finishing runner-up in the Most Valuable Player voting that year to Peyton Manning (who set the single-season record for touchdown passes that year).
For whatever reason, people continue to latch on to the "Randy Moss made Daunte Culpepper" meme. The 2004 season should pretty much prove that theory to be garbage. Seriously, Culpepper made Nate Burleson into a 1,000-yard receiver that year. Nate. . .Burleson.
Sure, Culpepper's 2005 season and his exit from Minnesota both wound up being fairly messy. But that notwithstanding, he's still the best quarterback of my Vikings' fandom and, in my opinion, the best non-Tarkenton quarterback in the history of the franchise.
Who do you have for this one, folks?