Rypien hadn't started a game in his previous three seasons. He never made it out of camp and soon retired.
Later that season, when a ruptured Achilles tendon landed Dilfer on injured reserve, the Seahawks signed another past-his-prime passer, Jeff George.
George, like Rypien, would never again attempt a regular-season pass in the NFL.
Culpepper would not compete for the starting job. Adding him to the roster would not demand full-scale reassessment of the position. In a best-case scenario, Culpepper would become another George -- an experienced player the team would never need to take a regular-season snap.
As then-Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren put it regarding George in relation to Hasselbeck back then: "It's important for our football team that Matt gets another shot at this thing, with the fans. It's important for everyone to understand what we are really doing. Jeff George is coming in to fill a particular role."
Adding Culpepper would not muddy the 49ers' meaningful plans for the position.
Smith would remain the projected starter for the short term, playing under terms of his guaranteed contract. Kaepernick would remain the projected starter for the longer term. Culpepper would provide a low-cost insurance policy if the team could not find a superior option over the coming weeks.
More than any 49ers coach in recent years, Jim Harbaugh deserves the benefit of the doubt on quarterbacks. He played the position at the NFL level. He developed quarterbacks at the college level while with San Diego and Stanford.
It's not like he would be bringing in Culpepper to start.