With the news that former Pro Bowler Daunte Culpepper retired last week, I couldn’t help but think about how quickly he went from one of the best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history to out of the league in less than 4 years. Then I got to thinking about how Gilbert and Daunte have dealt with very similar situations over the last few years. Consider the following:
- Both players appeared in 3 All-Star games and had a point where they were considered a MVP candidate. Gilbert had a two month stretch from December ’06 to January ’07 where he was a serious MVP candidate. Daunte very well could’ve been the NFL MVP in 2004 if Peyton Manning hadn’t compiled arguably the greatest season by a quarterback ever the same year.
- Shortly after playing at an MVP level, they both suffered major knee injuries.
- Despite suffering the injury, both were highly sought after players the following year. Gilbert was a hot commodity after opting out of his contract. Daunte became a hot commodity after demanding a trade out of Minnesota.
- Both players decided to forgo the middle man and represented themselves in contract negotiations. Daunte was traded to Miami and re-negotiated a new deal, Gilbert re-upped in Washington.
After that, we all know what happened to Daunte. He started the year with Miami, looked terrible and he had to get knee surgery again. Scared by the recurring knee problems, Miami decided to go in another direction by trading for Trent Green, which led to Daunte’s demands to be released from his contract. He then got his wish and signed a one-year deal in Oakland, where he played just about as well as he did in Miami (which is to say, not great), but he did manage to stay healthy. Once his contract was up in Oakland, he searched for another job, but was unable to find one, prompting his retirement.
Now, the obvious question becomes, “What can Gilbert do to make sure he doesn’t follow Daunte down the same path?” Here’s a few ideas:
- Stick with who you’re with: Undoubtedly, part of what hastened Daunte’s exit form Miami was that he hadn’t built up a rapport with the team and the fans. Considering Gilbert just re-signed for six years in July, this part shouldn’t be a problem.
- Be careful how you represent yourself: In his retirement letter, Culpepper complained that he felt that there was a “unified message from teams that I was not welcome to compete” and that “It seems that the stance I took in both Minnesota and Miami regarding my rights as a person and player has followed me into Free Agency.” In other words Gil, if you make people angry during contract negotiations, it can come back to bite you when you’re more expendable.
- Please, please, please make sure the knee is back to normal, or close to it. Please? After all, everything else becomes irrelevant if you can stay healthy and perform like you once did. Of course, I feel pretty confident that he will get back to normal. At least he doesn’t have the Madden curse against him: