Culpepper not '09 QB starter for Lions yet
John Niyo / The Detroit News
Expecting Scott Linehan, the new offensive coordinator for the Lions, to name his starting quarterback after only five days on the job is about as reasonable, one could argue, as expecting Daunte Culpepper last November to make his first start for the Lions five days after signing with the team.
And, well, that's worth noting as Linehan, who met with the local media for the first time Wednesday, sifts through the wreckage of last season's 0-16 game film and tries to assess what it is he's got to work with in Detroit.
Linehan said he has spoken with three of the four quarterbacks signed through next season: Culpepper, Jon Kitna and Drew Stanton. Drew Henson is the other, with Dan Orlovsky, who finished the season as the starter, likely headed elsewhere as a free agent this winter.
So who's his starter?
"In fairness to all the quarterbacks, we haven't really looked and done enough to say what we would or wouldn't do," said Linehan, the former St. Louis Rams coach. "We've got to let it work itself out. I wouldn't make any assumptions."
The implied message, of course, is that Culpepper, with whom Linehan developed a strong relationship several years ago in Minnesota, isn't the anointed starter for 2009. Not yet, anyway. With Linehan serving as the Vikings offensive coordinator from 2002-04, Culpepper thrived in a leading role for one of the league's most productive offenses. In 2004, he threw for a career-high 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns.
"I know a lot of people draw conclusions to the fact that I have an affinity for Daunte because of our background, and I do," Linehan said. "He was a special, special player for me -- and a (special) person as well.
"(But) in all fairness to all the quarterbacks and to Jim (Schwartz), in our evaluation process and to the whole process, we haven't really looked and done enough to say what we would or wouldn't do. I mean, I think you've got to go through the due process and kind of let it work itself out."
Linehan, whose offense also led the NFL in rushing in 2004, talked about his shared "vision" with Schwartz, emphasizing the need to establish a power running game. He singled out receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Kevin Smith as building blocks, and had good things to say about center Dominic Raiola, and tackles Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus. But the questions, as expected, focused on the quarterback.
"Certainly, you're going to have to make a decision on players as the calendar year rolls around, but at this point, I wouldn't make any assumption at all what we're going to do really at any position."
Clearly, though, Culpepper, who turned 32 on Wednesday, appears to be the front-runner. After weeks of behind-the-scenes talks last fall, the Lions signed the 10th-year pro to a back-loaded, two-year contract Nov. 4. And though he hadn't played in nearly a full year, he immediately was installed as the starter.
Asked Wednesday if his history with Culpepper would help him in evaluating the quarterback's play, Linehan responded, "Oh, heavens yes."
"That's only fair, because I do have a background. But again, I'm real conscious of this process. I don't think it is at all fair to the other quarterbacks on the roster or to the head coach, the division of our personnel and our franchise, that we let ... emotions or a tie to a player affect our ability to make the right decision."
One of general manager Martin Mayhew 's next big decisions will be whether or not to pay the $2.5 million roster bonus Culpepper is due in late February.
Culpepper, whose salary for 2009 would be an additional $2.5 million, hasn't responded to several messages seeking comment. But he has been in touch with Linehan, and the two are expected to meet face-to-face in the next week.
I thought about linking this article to multiple threads already started. but after some thought this deserves its own for the simple fact it can head many directions.
Quarterback is going to be interesting this offseason. I think we can all make cases for any of our current QB's getting a chance to start.
Daunte= history with Linehan and to be fair he didnt stand a chance of being any good this last year walking in off the street to start five days later.
Kitna= Solid veteran that can manage a game, he won't wow anyone but gets the job done.
Stanton= Do we really know what we got in him? I wont write off a second round pick under the previous management. Let the coaches decide and Im ok with that.
Henson= Is he still a project worth developing?
Orvolosky= Probobly gone thropugh FA.
Draft= This is whats most interesting to me about this article. Is it smoke screen saying we draft QB by saying our LT,RT,C is ok?
Next thing about this article is I think it cements we do not draft OT with the first pick. So where do we go if he thinks LT,RT,C are ok on the team as is?
I can see us drafting a OG with #20 but not #1 so is it QB or maybe DT?