For all but three of their first 34 seasons, the Miami Dolphins began a season with a future Hall of Fame quarterback on their roster. Either Bob Griese or Dan Marino manned the helm for almost the entire 1966-1999 period and Dolphin fans took it for granted that QB was the one position we weren't going to have to worry about. The 21st century: Different Story. The Wannstedt/Spielman team preferred to bring in free agent signal callers and from 2000 through 2005 we saw the following "legends" behind center: Damon Huard, Jay Fiedler, Ray Lucas, Sage Rosenfels, Brian Griese, Gus Frerotte, A.J. Feely. To paraphrase Monty Burns, readers, I hated writing that list as much as you hated reading it. Stuck with Frerotte, Rosenfels, and Feely on the roster, Nick Saban swiftly realized he wasn't going to win anything until he brought in a real QB. But who would that be? Drafting a QB wasn't an option, Saban wanted to win now and the team had dramatically improved in his first season. So free agency was (again) the path to tread for 2006. The two best available QB's in the offseason: Drew Brees and Duante Culpepper.
Ironically, Miami could have snagged Brees in the 2001 draft but Wannstedt overruled Spielman's unusually shrewd recommendation. Now Brees was agan there for the taking, this time having already proved himself as a high-quality player. And he desperately wanted Miami to sign him. Only problem, Brees suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder the season before. And as good as Brees had been in 2005, it couldn't compare to the best seasons of one Duante Culpepper. Culpepper and Randy Moss had been lighting up the league for years. Plus Culpepper possessed tremendous mobility. Of course, Culpepper had a little injury problem of his own; he managed to blow out all three ligaments in his knee. So which damaged QB to take? That was a question Nick Saban pondered long and hard. But his crack medical staff analyzed the situation and determined Culpepper was healing far ahead of schedule. And the last thing you want is a passer with an injured shoulder. So Culpepper got the nod and Brees was stuck with the pathetic Saints.
The stage was now set for Culpepper to join Griese and Marino in the Dolphin pantheon. Just one problem: he couldn't play. Oh sure he suited up and started 5 games, but he couldn't play. Healing far ahead of schedule? A tissue of lies! He couldn't freaking move and was a sitting duck behind the line of scrimmage. That never stopped Dan Marino but the knee injury exposed Duante as the anti-Marino. Without his mobility Culpepper was worthless. And surprise surpise, turns out Duante needed more knee surgery and recovery time after all. And the icing on the cake: Brees recovered just fine from his problem, led his team to the playoffs, and was this close to winning the MVP award. Perfect. Saban screwd up a personnel decision as badly as it could be screwed up. Yeah, this one's going down in Dolphins history. Saban blamed everybody but himself before bailing for Tuscaloosa and millions of dollars. Don't let the door hit you in the ass loosa!
New coach Cam Cameron refused to give Culpepper a shot at the starting job. He'd rather have a 37-year-old QB coming off one of the worst concussions we've ever seen. And really, who wouldn't? Cam didn't even want Culpepper around as a backup. He's worse than Cleo Lemon? I suppose after watching Duante's 5 Dolphins starts you could legitimately think that. Maybe the guy's nothing without Moss. Maybe he lied about how well he was recovering or perhaps he was too lazy to rehab properly. Still, giving up on the guy after one year is harsh. And we got nothing for him. Guess Cam just doesn't think Culpepper's got what it takes to run his system, like ever. And keeping him around would (I guess) risk creating a distraction or a QB controversy. So he had to go.
One year ago: excitement, anticipation, playoff fever.
Now: shell-shock, depression, years of rebuilding, millions wasted.
So long Duante.