Culpepper Comes to the Motor City

Posted on November 9, 2008 by

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Here are the quarterback and running back rankings for Week Nine.

Table One: Quarterback Rankings for Week Nine

Table Two: Running Back Rankings for Week Nine

A couple of months ago the Lions were completing a spotless preseason and Daunte Culpepper was out of football.  Flash forward nine weeks and the Lions record is still quite clean.  At least, it doesn’t have any wins making it messy. And Culpepper is now back in football as the Lions starting quarterback

When the Joey Harrington era ended a couple of years ago I noted that the Lions have a history of failed signal callers.  The player who replaced Harrington – Jon Kitna – continued this tradition.  Here are Kitna’s career numbers.

  • 1997: 0.199 Net points per play in (3) games
  • 1998: 0.123 Net points per play in (6) games
  • 1999: 0.136 Net points per play in (15) games
  • 2000: 0.058 Net points per play in (15) games
  • 2001: 0.062 Net points per play in (16) games
  • 2002: 0.138 Net points per play in (14) games
  • 2003: 0.159 Net points per play in (16) games
  • 2004: 0.084 Net points per play in (4) games
  • 2005: -0.132 Net points per play in (3) games
  • 2006: 0.118 Net points per play in (16) games
  • 2007: 0.149 Net points per play in (16) games
  • Career: 0.116 Net points per play in (124) games

An average quarterback posts a 0.160 Net points per play.  So after his first three games in 1997, Kitna was consistently below average.  And this trend continued with the Lions in 2006, 2007, and 2008.  Although it is possible a quarterback can put up bad numbers because he has bad teammates, after so many seasons of poor results I think we can conclude that Kitna is really not a very good quarterback.

Now the Lions have turned to Culpepper.  For comparison sake, here are his career numbers.

  • 1999: 0.055 Net points per play in (1) games
  • 2000: 0.246 Net points per play in (16) games
  • 2001: 0.148 Net points per play in (11) games
  • 2002: 0.141 Net points per play in (16) games
  • 2003: 0.224 Net points per play in (14) games
  • 2004: 0.295 Net points per play in (16) games
  • 2005: 0.085 Net points per play in (7) games
  • 2006: 0.121 Net points per play in (4) games
  • 2007: 0.122 Net points per play in (7) games
  • Career: 0.194 Net points per play in (92) games

Culpepper was above average in 2000, 2003, and 2004.  After 2004, though, Culpepper looked like a Detroit quarterback.  With Minnesota in 2005, Miami in 2006, and Oakland in 2007, Culpepper was both hurt and unproductive.

Despite these problems, though, his numbers in Miami and Oakland were not much different from what Kitna did in 2006 and 2007.  And Culpepper’s marks were much better than what Kitna did this season.  In sum, it’s hard to see how Culpepper will give less than they got from Kitna.

One should note, though, that Dan Orlovsky began playing in the fourth game this season.  And his Net points per play currently stands at 0.169.  This mark is barely above the average of an NFL quarterback, but amazing by Detroit standards.  Nevertheless, it hasn’t led to any wins and with him hurt, the Lions have to look elsewhere.

So is Culpepper the answer?  In his first two series today he was intercepted once, sacked once, and failed to complete a pass.  In other words he is fitting in very nicely in Detroit.

– DJ

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For more on the Wages of Wins football metrics see

The New QB Score

Consistent Inconsistency in Football

Football Outsiders and QB Score

The Value of Player Statistics in the NFL

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