Sid Hartman: Moss' departure left void for Culpepper

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 18, 2007 - 12:07 AM

As Daunte Culpepper returns to the Metrodome today, you can't help but wonder what things would be like if he and Randy Moss were still together here.

The fact that Daunte Culpepper will start today for the Oakland Raiders at the Metrodome brought back memories of how high former Vikings coach Dennis Green was on the potential of the Central Florida quarterback before the 1999 draft.

It was late afternoon the day before the 1999 NFL draft, and Green was in his office going over possible first-round draft picks the Vikings would take.

"There are some quarterbacks available in the draft, and some good defensive players," Green said. "You know, we might just take that Daunte Culpepper, even though he played at Central Florida and some people don't have him rated that high. I like everything about him, but you never know what will happen once the draft starts."

Well, the next morning the Vikings did draft Culpepper 11th overall. He didn't see any meaningful action as a rookie, as Jeff George and Randall Cunningham ran the offense.

But the following year, Culpepper became the starting quarterback and the Vikings went 11-5, got the No. 2 seed in the NFC and went to the conference championship game.

The Vikings went 37-34, including 2-2 in the playoffs, between 2000 and '04 when Culpepper and Randy Moss played together.

After Moss was traded to Oakland in 2005, the Vikings started that year 2-5 before Culpepper got hurt at Carolina, ending his season and eventually his career in a Vikings uniform.

Well, I always contended -- and several Vikings coaches agreed with me -- that during that 2000-04 period, it was Moss and his great ability as a wide receiver that made Culpepper as successful as he was.

Dean Dalton, the Vikings running back coach under Mike Tice, said: "After [Culpepper] got hurt, he was done. ... Daunte had no shot once he had the knee injury. Prior to that injury he wasn't playing the best football of his career, but the year before he was pretty good.

"Without Moss, the whole offense took a hit because Randy's such a deep threat. Our style of offense was a power-run game and a vertical passing game, and Randy was the best vertical receiver in the game, as he's proving this year in New England."

Yes, the Vikings have continued to have quarterback and wide receiver problems since the Culpepper-Moss era ended.

You wonder what would have happened had Moss not been traded to the Raiders in 2005, what would have happened if Moss and Culpepper were still wearing the Vikings purple today.

Made offer to Santana

The word in baseball circles is that the Twins have made a five-year offer to two-time Cy Young Ward winner Johan Santana calling for $93 million.

Santana will be in the final year of his four-year, $40 million contract in 2008.

It's doubtful that Santana will accept this offer, but at least it's a start in an attempt to lock up the pitcher many consider to be the best in baseball.

Meanwhile, there isn't any doubt that the Twins are waiting for free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter to get some offers, and if Hunter wants to return here as he claims, he will give the Twins a chance to match.

Twins closer Joe Nathan will become a free agent at the end of the 2008 season. The Yankees didn't make it any easier for the Twins to re-sign Nathan when they offered Mariano Rivera a three-year contract calling for $45 million. The Twins recently exercised a $6 million option on Nathan for next year.

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