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Culpepper's culpability

For Minnesota Vikings fans, it has been the nightmare they dreaded most: Randy Moss' departure causing the all-world ability of Daunte Culpepper to leave town, too.

Judging from the hordes of email received this week, Vikings fans have found common ground when it comes to culpability for this season. The Whizzinator scandal was bad. Dealing with Mike Tice has been worse. And the Love Boat? That's just been the cherry on top. But when it comes to real blame, Culpepper is still the chief villain in The Land of 9,999 Lakes not named Minnetonka.

Beyond the Vikings, I got a generous amount of emails about the status of the Denver Broncos, whose success still draws conflicting opinions. A slew of New England Patriots fans also turned out to applaud the return of linebacker Tedy Bruschi, despite some obvious concerns about his health.

I also had some random topics brought to light, from a question about the disappearance of Rohan Davey to one guy who compared his job selling water coolers to Chad Johnson's career of catching touchdown passes. And of course, I heard the scalding screams about the rankings, with the San Diego Chargers' inclusion in this week's "Muddled Middle" drawing the most ire.

As usual, it was a great week of feedback. Keep the thoughts coming, and remember to include your first and last name and your city and state. My comments are in italics.

To the mail …

MINNESOTA VIKINGS ( "Minnesota's mess," Oct. 20, 2005)

It's too bad I can't look up your past comments on Daunte and the Vikings, because I'm sure you've sent out praise the last couple of years to that bum. Minnesota has coached him into the ground and made him a no-run quarterback. He's been on the decline since his rookie year. All in all, this is a good thing. Maybe, just maybe, they'll get rid of the coaches and Culpepper.

Nic
Hamilton, Ontario

You didn't have to look up my past comments. The next reader did it for you.


Here is an excerpt from your April 1, 2005, "Read and React" column:

"I just read your article about the much-needed gut check for the Vikings defense. While there is no question that the defense has held them back, there are a few of us diehard Vikings fans who feel that the Vikings will never take the next step until they address a very carefully hidden problem. Daunte Culpepper is the most overrated quarterback in the history of the NFL."

Vincent Gresham
South Bend, Ind.

"I'm speechless."

Are you still speechless? I was not surprised when I first read the above email. Among a number of my close friends and avid Vikings fans, we have shared the previous writer's feelings regarding Daunte.

Jim Kmetz
Minneapolis

Nice research, Jim. As a matter of fact, I am still speechless – that Culpepper could possibly be playing this badly (even with all the problems around him).


In your latest rankings, you called Daunte Culpepper the worst starting quarterback in the NFC North. He's really worse than Joey Harrington AND Kyle Orton? I don't think so.

Matt Doner
Voorhees, N.J.

Hmmm. Yeah, I went a little overboard on that one. But he's not that far behind right now, is he?


They need to start all over again in Minnesota, don't they? This is a team surrounded by trouble and it's not getting better. The reason is at the quarterback position and it has spread like the bird flu. Why not dismantle the team and start over?

Joshua McGlone
Bloomington, Ind.

"Dismantling" is a little drastic. First see how the roster responds to a new coaching staff that instills some discipline.


I don't want to pat myself on the back, but I think I stated that Daunte Culpepper was going to lead the league in turnovers. Glad to see he's fulfilling my prediction. The Vikes will be lucky to win three games with that offensive line.

Greg Konwinski
Alpena, Mich.


What were the Vikings thinking in the second half of the game against Chicago? They completely stopped handing the ball to Mewelde Moore. He has been their best and most consistent offensive threat this year. If the Vikings want to salvage a playoff spot (and give Mike Tice a shot to keep his job), they have to become more of a running team.

Naail Khan
Toronto


When will the miserable Vikings begin scoring (on the field, not on cruise ships)?

Mike
Burlington, N.J.

(Rimshot.)


You know, if Randy Moss was still in Minnesota, maybe last week's boat cruise would have loosened him up a little and prevented his groin injury.

Greg Mroz
Chicago

Now THAT was funny.


DENVER BRONCOS ("Wise guy," Oct. 16, 2005)

You're right. It is hard to replace John Elway, but Jake Plummer is doing it so far. As long as his fans and teammates stay behind him, he will do fine.

Kirk
Hastings, Neb.


Don't give me that crap! Jake Plummer is no star! Every long pass he made against New England was on LOW CLASS Patriots cornerback Duane Starks. Jake Plummer's success was Starks' failure as a cornerback.

Jivin
Rochester, N.Y.


After legions of reporters and "experts" picked Denver to go 8-8 at best, seeing them slip into the No. 2 spot in your rankings is like seeing an ex-girlfriend gain 50 pounds and date a Cro-Magnon. I haven't been this happy since John Elway.

Mike Zvalaren
Montague, N.J.


TEDY BRUSCHI ("Savior situation," Oct. 19, 2005)

I don't think that Tedy Bruschi should make a return this year. I think that Bill Belichick should keep him out for the year. It's just too big of a risk.

Justin Cissom
New Albany, Miss.


With Bruschi coming back, I think his presence on the practice field will boost the mental game of the Patriots defense. However, I still think they need a lot of help in the secondary to make a serious run at another Super Bowl.

Kenny Burr
Gainesville, Texas

Agreed.


I think you undersold the value of Bruschi on the field. Bruschi is the defensive signal caller, and Bruschi and Rodney Harrison were the guys calling on-field adjustments for the defense. With Bruschi back, there's someone to oversee last-second adjustments now, and that should help prevent the really big plays this defense has been prone to giving up.

Tom Lacey
Plainville, Mass.


RANKINGS RANTS ("Silver and blech," Oct. 18, 2005)

Have you got something against the San Diego Chargers in your rankings? Are you only going by the standings? Do you watch them? They are easily in the top three.

Mario
Montreal


Why do you think the "Seagulls" rate being in your Top 12? The Seattle Seahawks are in the super-soft NFC West. They've played no team of significance. They've beaten only Atlanta in your Top 12. Conversely, the Chargers have played four of your Top 12. Granted, they have beaten only New England, but they weren't exactly trounced in the games they lost.

Wanda
Oregon

Just playing well doesn't raise a team to elite status. You have to WIN tough games, too, and three losses (including two at home) doesn't cut it at this point in the season.


San Diego in the Muddled Middle? Do they REALLY deserve to be that high? This is the most overrated and over-talked team in the NFL – just a West Coast version of "Schoddy Ball."

Pops Taylor
Allen, Texas


Denver has been playing at home – stop overestimating that team. Don't allow Tommy Maddox's absolute flop of a game to influence the Pittsburgh Steelers' position. If it were not for Maddox's ugliness and Antwaan Randle El's mistake of trying to pitch the ball to Hines Ward against New England, Pittsburgh would easily be undefeated right now.

Dan Feldman
Los Angeles


How can you possibly rate Pittsburgh higher than the Cincinnati Bengals? You are an idiot, my friend, and your rankings are about as meaningful as a degree in retardation.

Joshua Shifflet
Cincinnati

Classy.


It's amazing how many excuses you have found to keep the Indianapolis Colts from the top spot for all these weeks. Now that you've got them there, you claim it's simply because of their soft schedule.

Ewan Schmid
Baltimore

You must be confused because Indianapolis has been rated No. 1 in my rankings since Day 1. Check out the Sept. 5 rankings in the archive for yourself.


MISCELLANEOUS

This year's crop of rookie linebackers looks special already. How do you think Bill Parcells feels about passing on Derrick Johnson for DeMarcus Ware? How does every team that drafted a linebacker in the first round feel about missing out on Odell Thurman?

Ashwin Sridharan
Ithaca, N.Y.

You are right about the rookie class of linebackers, but I can assure you that Parcells is delighted with the play of Ware, who has four sacks in six games this season. Johnson and Thurman also have been excellent additions to their teams. If anything, the only highly touted linebacker who has come along slowly is San Diego's Shawne Merriman, and even he has shown signs of being a special player.


Did any of the whining Detroit Lions fans ever see Harrington play college ball? He was fortunate to have a line that could protect him. He had a passion for the game. With all of you slamming his ability, he has no fire in his belly.

Lance Wheeler
Salem, Ore.


The problem with Harrington is the receivers. This bunch is young, inexperienced, overrated, injured and/or getting in trouble. Sometimes, this group of receivers is all five of those things.

Jeff Neuenschwander
Dearborn, Mich.


The problem with the New Orleans Saints is, first and foremost, that Aaron Brooks is too inconsistent and makes far too many mistakes. He simply is not a good NFL quarterback. The second problem, though, is Jim Haslett. The Saints will never get anywhere as long as they're saddled with Brooks and Haslett.

Bruce Norbeck
San Jose, Calif.


As for your take on touchdown dances and Chad Johnson's CPR celebration, I couldn't agree more! I thought that was hilarious. These types of celebrations are creative and fun. I'm not a huge fan of Chad Johnson, but I love that he has fun and doesn't take anything too seriously. When I heard about the Vikings' scandal this week, all I could think was "Man, I wish they were playing Cincinnati this week."

Chris
Bethesda, Md.


Do you think that I should do a ridiculous dance every time I sell a water heater, or help someone pick out paint (you know, MY JOB)? Because, I mean, I'm doing what I'm paid to be doing anyway, but maybe a dance would keep it "FRESH."

Joseph Knitt
Oshkosh, Wis.

Wait a minute. Isn't football supposed to be FUN? What's wrong with taking some enjoyment in scoring a touchdown if it doesn't degrade an opponent? And don't give me that "doing your job" nonsense. Our jobs are absolutely nothing like the jobs of NFL players. When was the last time you had fans cuss you out? When was the last time you had a 220-pound safety attempt to rip your head off on a crossing route? Or had a reporter show up and analyze each and every part of your personal and professional life? This is a game and a form of entertainment – selling paint and water coolers is not.


Why does Peter Warrick get no touches in Seattle? He's one of the most talented players I have ever seen in my life. Why doesn't he get a second chance to shine in Seattle, especially with all the injuries?

Brenden
Detroit

With Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram banged up, Warrick is going to get plenty of opportunities from this moment on.


You updated Tim Couch's employment situation, but what about Rohan Davey?

Bob Foye
Sandusky, Ohio

Since being cut by New England and then the Arizona Cardinals, Davey has been waiting for a call from teams in need of quarterback assistance. The Miami Dolphins – with Davey's former coach Nick Saban at the helm – have been mentioned as a possible destination in the coming weeks. But Davey is looking for a team where he may factor into, at the very least, a No. 2 role. Thus far, there hasn't been any serious interest from teams.


No more talk about the NFC East being the best division in football. They might be beating up on each other pretty evenly, but they are collectively 2-4 against the AFC West so far this season.

Stephen McElroy
Bowling Green, Ky.

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