Culpepper's career ended two years ago

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
DAVIE, Fla. -- Daunte Culpepper never was especially good at staying patient.

Culpepper, just 31 years old and four seasons removed from one of the most prolific seasons in NFL history, retired Thursday because he was sick of waiting for a worthwhile job offer.

"He's one of those quarterbacks that when he was healthy, he was one of the best," said Miami Dolphins defensive end Vonnie Holliday.

"I'm sure he's bitter. Daunte was a high-profile player."

Culpepper's career didn't end Thursday. It ended two years ago with the Dolphins.

He was coming back from a reconstructed right knee, but Dolphins head coach Nick Saban was smitten, convincing the front office to send a second-round draft pick to the Minnesota Vikings in hopes Culpepper would end the ongoing quest for Dan Marino's replacement.

A bronze Marino statue stands outside Gate G at Dolphins Stadium. Culpepper was statuesque only in the pocket.

Culpepper came back from his knee injury too soon. He couldn't stand the thought of not playing. So he pushed and pushed and pushed. And he got sacked and sacked and sacked until, four games in, his 2006 campaign was done. The failed move almost certainly hastened Saban's controversial departure to Alabama.

"He's a competitor," said Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown, who's coming back from a rebuilt right knee of his own. "A guy who went through the surgery that he had, to tear all the ligaments, you could just the edge that he wanted to come back.

"You would see he wanted to be out there and be a part of it and be on the field so bad. He wanted to persevere through the injury and be there as a football player and as a teammate."

Culpepper was sacked 21 times in his four games with Miami. He was sacked seven times in his home debut. The Dolphins refused to let him participate in training camp last year and cut him.

"Obviously, just watching him in Minnesota and the things he was capable of doing not only passing the ball, but the things he was able to do with his legs," Brown said, "[the injury] took that away from him as far as being mobile and not being able to do the things he wanted to."

Culpepper's best season was better than Marino's best season.

In 2004, Culpepper produced the fifth-highest-rated season among passers: 69.2 completion percentage, 4,717 yards, 39 touchdowns, 11 interceptions. He had a 110.9 passer rating. Even more amazing is that he didn't pull it off merely by pumping the ball to Randy Moss, who had only 49 catches.

Holliday, who spent five seasons with the Green Bay Packers, played against Culpepper before they became teammates. He got another first-hand look last year, when Culpepper led the Oakland Raiders to a 35-17 victory in Dolphin Stadium. Culpepper ran for three touchdowns and threw for two.

Holliday can't fathom teams not extending an offer to a three-time Pro Bowler unless there's a good reason. A healthy Culpepper can help a team.

"I don't know what was going on and if his knee ever recovered and he was ever back to 100 percent," Holliday said. "But I'm sure if he was anywhere close to 100 percent teams would have to take a shot.

"You look at the league out here now. A lot of the teams don't have that high-profile, quality quarterback, or they have a lot of young quarterbacks that don't have the experience of Daunte Culpepper.

"I guess now that dream to get back on the field and prove everybody wrong is behind him. He's onto another chapter of his life. It has to be tough."