Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - T.S. Eliot once said: "Sometimes things
become possible if we want them bad enough."
That seems to be the Minnesota Vikings' thinking when it comes to
underwhelming third-year quarterback Christian Ponder.
Sometime between January and July of this year Ponder evidently joined an
elite group of signal callers headlined by names like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady
and Peyton Manning.
Or at least that's how Leslie Frazier treated him in Minnesota's preseason
opener on Friday, giving the Florida State product just two offensive snaps
and the rest of the night off, the kind of respect only the most entrenched of
And actually that's not even true. Rodgers, a year removed from his MVP
season, played one series and 11 snaps in Green Bay's first contest, while
Brady, the three-time Super Bowl winner, handled 16 reps and two series in the
Patriots' inaugural affair. Even the 37-year-old, nine-time All-Pro Manning
was asked to handle seven snaps for Denver before taking a seat.
To be fair Ponder was scheduled to play a little more until his continued
accuracy problems shortcircuted things.
Frazier claims he decided before the Vikings' 27-13 loss to the Texans that
Ponder would only play in one series.
Minnesota then won the coin toss and electrifying rookie Cordarrelle Patterson
returned the opening kickoff 50 yards to the Vikings' 45-yard line. Ponder
followed that with a sharp 15-yard completion to Jerome Simpson before going
back to the well with a poorly thrown pass toward the wideout. This time
Simpson got a paw on the scattershot throw, which was high and outside, and
tipped it into the hands of Texans safety Shiloh Keo.
Just like that Ponder's night was done.
"There was a temptation (to put Ponder back in)," Frazier said when asked
about sticking to his strange plan. "But then I reminded myself why we made
the decision we were going to go one series, whether it was two plays, three
plays, 10 plays."
"We knew it was going to be one drive but we would have liked it to be a
touchdown and a long drive, but it is what it is," Ponder added. "We have a
ton of practice left to get better."
Fair enough but here's the problem with that line of thinking -- Ponder is a
mechanical mess who plays with the self confidence of an acne-ridden high
school kid. If anyone needs repetitions in this preseason it's Christian
Ponder is in a group -- or at least he should be -- which includes
Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert, Tennessee's Jake Locker and perhaps a rookie
like Buffalo's E.J. Manuel, players that need every single opportunity they
Injury simply can't be a concern here. Remember, these days Joe Webb isn't the
backup in Minnesota any longer. Proven veteran Matt Cassel is and you can make
a strong argument that Cassel is better equipped right now to lead the Vikings
"Number one you don't want to get hurt, especially in the first preseason
game," Ponder said. "There are guys that are trying to make roster spots who
need the playing time as well. We'll get plenty of time in the next couple of
Cassel, the ex-Patriots and Chiefs pilot, is far from a star but can certainly
prey on defenses that pile eight or nine in the box to try to stop reigning
MVP Adrian Peterson and the Vikings vaunted running game.
Cassel was impressive in extended action against the Texans. Forget about the
final score. That was Minnesota's third- and fourth-teamers getting waxed by
impressive Houston third-string signal caller Case Keenum. The ones and twos
for the Vikings -- with Cassel leading them -- were actually leading 13-10 in
the guts of the game.
"He got in a rhythm and it seemed like he did some good things as far as
moving our team, taking command of the offense; so those were some encouraging
moments for him," Frazier said when talking about Cassel.
That is what makes the organization's slavish devotion to Ponder so
Those who still believe in Ponder point to December when the Vikings made an
unlikely playoff run by winning four straight games without star wideout Percy
And to his credit Ponder did rebound from an awful midseason slump in which he
would often have trouble reaching the century mark in passing yards, an almost
unthinkable struggle in today's pass-heavy NFL.
To those watching closely, however, it was clear offensive coordinator Bill
Musgrave dialed everything back and asked Ponder to do little other than
manage the game as Peterson and a solid defense did all the heavy lifting.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has built a championship level club
around Ponder. Minnesota is loaded with the best running back in the sport
(Peterson), a terrific offensive line, an emerging tight end in Kyle Rudolph
as well as a much-improved receiving corps thanks to the additions of veteran
Greg Jennings and Patterson. On defense, the Vikings have a deep line,
solidified their linebacking group with the addition of Desmond Bishop and
alleviated the loss of Antoine Winfield by drafting Xavier Rhodes.
There is only one piece missing but it happens to be at the most important
position in the game and perhaps all of sport.
Ponder has always been able to verbalize on what he needs to improve on
and has diagnosed most of his problems well but the fact remains he often
regresses to what's natural to him, and his default settings are just not
conducive to solid quarterback play at the NFL level.
Handling him with kid gloves and limiting important reps that could help break
some very bad habits is the polar opposite of what should be going on
In Week 2 of the preseason expect Ponder to play about a quarter just like
most of the other proven starters around the league as the Vikings continue
their convoluted plan of morphing osmosis together with an old-fashioned
Problem is, wishes are only granted in fairy tales.
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