Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan left for a similar job in Miami. Randy Moss was traded. The Love Boat happened. Then Daunte Culpepper shredded his knee, and he was never the same. That was all in 2005.
Those facts obscure, still, a season by Culpepper that was remarkable and one that we revisit every so often to make sure it isn't forgotten.
In 2004, Culpepper:
*Threw for 4,717 yards
*Had 39 touchdown passes with only 11 interceptions
*Ran for another 406 yards and two scores
*Did this with limited help. Cris Carter? Gone by then. Moss? Had his worst year that didn't involve a caterer, by far, as a Viking: 767 yards receiving, only 13 games played (then, of course, the trade). Culpepper accounted for more than 5,000 yards of offense with Onterrio Smith as his leading rusher. Nate Burleson and Jermaine Wiggins were his primary pass catchers.
*He did all of this in the regular season, and yet the Vikings only managed to go 8-8 (maybe, possibly, because of a defense that allowed nearly 25 points per game). They snuck into the playoffs where they DEFEATED THE PACKERS. Culpepper was 19 of 29 for 284 yards, four TDs and no interceptions. He ran for 47 more yards.
We revisited all this when looking up Culpepper's very good first year as a starter (second year in the league): 33 TD passes, 98.0 rating, nearly 500 rushing yards and seven rushing TDs. He had tons more to work with that year -- a motivated Moss, a still-sharp Cater, a peaking Robert Smith among them.
The 2004 season ended with a playoff loss to Philly. And as noted, everything went downhill from there. But do not forget about 2004 Culpepper. This effort should be remembered, rhapsodized about and cherished. That was nearly a one-man show, and it was spectacular. It was quite possibly -- and there are plenty of comparisons, including efforts from veterans Randall Cunningham and Brett Favre -- the best year a Vikings QB has ever had and maybe ever will have.