Poorly prepared, Hall of Fame QB delivers shot from the blind side

Young out of bounds with Culpepper jab

December 31, 2006|By Alex Marvez | Alex Marvez,South Florida Sun-Sentinel

It was an amateur performance by a Hall of Fame quarterback.

In his role as an NFL analyst, Steve Young had the right to savage quarterback Daunte Culpepper during Monday night's ESPN telecast of the Miami Dolphins' 13-10 loss to the New York Jets.

Provided he was telling the truth.

But while painting the picture of an injured player who was "just floating" and had "lost control of his professional career," Young said that Culpepper also was missing team meetings. The incorrect accusation infuriated Culpepper so much that he gimped over from a Dolphin Stadium club suite to confront Young at halftime.

And that's when Young began to backpedal like the cornerbacks he once picked apart with his passing.

Young apologized to Culpepper and expressed the same sentiment to media members who witnessed the incident. Young tried to clarify that he knew Culpepper was a "hard worker" and "doing everything the right way" while trying to return from a major knee injury - even though he had basically said the opposite on the air.

Young also said he felt perceptually that Culpepper could do a better job of showing he can become the "new sheriff in town" at a revolving-door position since Dan Marino retired after the 1999 season. The point has merit, since Culpepper's refusal to speak with the media on a regular basis (including for this column) has limited the ability of reporters to convey his state of mind to Dolphins fans.

But anything else that Young said - and will convey in the future - should be taken with a grain of salt, as his comments were seemingly more ad-libbed than researched. Young didn't attend pre-game production meetings with fellow ESPN announcers like Joe Theismann, who spent ample time meeting with Culpepper at team headquarters. Young, who didn't respond to an interview request for this column, also never spoke with Dolphins coach Nick Saban beforehand.

As a subject of innuendo himself at times during a 15-year NFL career, Young should know better than to spew unfounded criticism and the damage it can cause.

Jeers to ESPN as well for doing a horrible job admitting Young goofed. In a move that would have helped clear Culpepper's name and provided compelling television, ESPN should have brought back Young during the third quarter to offer a personal apology and acknowledge the halftime confrontation occurred. (Young had been a guest commentator during the second quarter.)

Instead, the Culpepper-Young chat was never mentioned and Theismann was the one who made the mea culpa offhandedly in the fourth quarter.

A better-prepared Young would have been a nice departure from the second-quarter "guests" ESPN has featured this season who have no NFL ties.

But Young's segment actually made one long for B-listers like Jimmy Kimmel and James Denton to return for more inane banter and shameless ABC plugs.

One other television thought:

NBC's flexible scheduling wasn't a hit this past week in Chicago, where Bears fans who already had made New Year's Eve plans were forced to scramble after the team's game against visiting Green Bay was moved to prime time.

Infuriating some fans even more, beer sales will be discontinued early at Soldier Field.

The possible final game of Packers quarterback Brett Favre's career was NBC's most attractive option in what proved a quirky week of games, as there are no matchups with guaranteed playoff spots on the line for both teams. Still, the Tennessee-New England game is this weekend's most intriguing contest, with Patriots coach Bill Belichick scheming to slow red-hot Titans quarterback Vince Young.

Alex Marvez writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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