These paragraphs are revealing:
Even though Daunte Culpepper has not played in the NFL in two years, his mark on the game is still being felt. Culpepper affected the fate of the franchises in Minnesota, Miami, New Orleans and Green Bay as much as almost any player who has worn those teams’ uniforms.
Were it not for the success Culpepper enjoyed in 2004, Minnesota would have been more inclined to use one of its two first-round picks in the 2005 draft on a quarterback. But Culpepper was coming off a 2004 season in which he threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns. Minnesota thought it was set at quarterback. So it used the seventh overall pick in 2005 on South Carolina wide receiver Troy Williamson. It used the 18th overall pick on Wisconsin defensive end Erasmus James. And then, with the 24th overall pick, the Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers.
The very next offseason, after Culpepper struggled at the start of the 2005 season and then tore up his knee on Oct. 30, the Dolphins traded a second-round pick to Minnesota for the then-disgruntled Culpepper rather than signing free-agent quarterback Drew Brees, who wanted to land in Miami. And so, with Culpepper landing in Miami, Brees had no choice but to go to New Orleans.
Rodgers and Brees, the men whose fates are tied to Culpepper’s, have combined to win the past two Super Bowls. Their success is an ongoing story, a reminder of how timing really is everything and why teams are wise to draft the proverbial best player available. Now Rodgers has the Packers unbeaten. Their march to perfection — going strong enough to make Mercury Morris and the 1972 Dolphins uneasy — is under way. And Rodgers is leading the Packers into Monday night’s game against a Minnesota organization that bypassed him twice in the draft.
Brees has the Saints in first place in the NFC South. He is leading the Saints into Sunday’s NFC South showdown against the second-place Atlanta Falcons. And Culpepper, who worked out for the San Francisco 49ers in August, is out of football while Minnesota and Miami still are trying to make up for multiple mistakes. It is a different form of fantasy football, detailing NFL hypotheticals that could have but didn’t happen. But it also is a glimpse of how much one quarterback helped change the way the league is viewed today.