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News » Is Stafford the one?

Is Stafford the one?

Is Stafford the one?
ALLEN PARK -- Maybe we've been looking at this from the wrong perspective.

For the past several weeks, the question has been: How much do the Detroit Lions like Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford? With the draft coming up on Saturday, Stafford is one of the candidates to be taken with Detroit's first overall pick.

However, a more prudent question might be: How much do the Lions like Daunte Culpepper?

After all, the man who will make the final decision on whether to draft Stafford -- general manager Martin Mayhew -- also was the driving force in bringing Culpepper to Detroit last season. In training camp last year, Mayhew lobbied then-president Matt Millen to sign Culpepper, who was an unrestricted free agent.

The Lions passed on that opportunity, but when Mayhew took over for Millen, and the Lions' quarterback situation got worse, it was Mayhew who signed Culpepper in mid-season.

Culpepper reported overweight and out of shape and didn't play particularly well, but now he's lost 30 pounds and has looked good at the Lions' minicamp. While there are certainly issues about Stafford's future in the NFL, there are also questions about Culpepper's ability to recapture his glory years.

A key figure in this situation is Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who was Culpepper's coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings for three years (2002-04). During their final two years together, Culpepper threw for 64 touchdowns and just 22 interceptions and, in 2004, he had a quarterback rating of 110.9.

It's widely believed that Culpepper's demise began when he suffered a serious knee injury the following season but, in reality, his struggles began from the start of that season. Linehan had departed Minnesota to become the Miami Dolphins' coordinator and Culpepper had a brutal start to the 2005 season. In his first two games - both losses - Culpepper didn't throw a touchdown pass but had eight interceptions and two fumbles.

Culpepper started five more games (winning just two) before the knee injury ended his season.

After things soured in Minnesota, Culpepper spent one year with the Dolphins and one season with the Oakland Raiders before joining the Lions last year. While injuries have certainly played a part in Culpepper's struggles, the fact is that he hasn't been the same since he parted ways with Linehan. Is it just a coincidence that new head coach Jim Schwartz hired Linehan to be the team's offensive coordinator?

Linehan is also a central figure in this drama because he knows Culpepper - at least, the "old'' Culpepper - better than anyone. Even though they've only been going through off-season workouts for a little more than a month, Linehan is uniquely qualified to inform Mayhew of whether he believes Culpepper still has what it takes.

Whether through the draft or free agency, the Lions expected to add at least one more quarterback. The other two quarterbacks on Detroit's roster are Drew Stanton and Drew Henson, but neither figures prominently in the team's plans. Mayhew has said repeatedly during the off-season that the Lions still want to sign another veteran backup.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 22, 2009

John Standeford Name: John Standeford
Position: WR
Age: 26
Experience: 2 years
College: Purdue
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