My partner in crime, Dan Zinski, kicked off this Smackdown this morning by saying that the Vikings should start Christian Ponder for the 2011 season. While his points are valid (Drafted 12th Overall, Team Isn’t Going Anywhere, Sick Of Fill-In QBs and Young QBs Get Good Fast) and he had the tough task of going first, I respectfully have to disagree with him to say…
The Vikings Should Start a Veteran Quarterback
Yes, Ponder was indeed drafted 12th overall. The very next day head coach Leslie Frazier proclaimed him to be “Our Matt Ryan” and through the whole draft process nearly tipped the Vikings hand as to what position they were going to take but…
Christian Ponder Is Not Matt Ryan
In the 2008 NFL Draft there wasn’t even a debate as to the best quarterback. Matt Ryan was drafted 3rd overall by the Atlanta Falcons to replaced Michael Vick who was out of the league due to dog fighting charges. Ryan also had two things going for him at Boston College that Ponder didn’t at Florida State – arm strength and ability to make the big play. Due to Ponder’s arm he won’t be the quarterback (at least right away) make the uncanny off-balance throws like a Jay Cutler or a Philip Rivers. A lot of his game from the beginning will be built on short to intermediate reads and having precise timing with his wide receivers. And that’s okay for a rookie QB. But one must also account the Vikings will be playing more games in a cold weather compared to a team in the NFC South. Passes would be more likely to flutter and secondaries would move in knowing that.
Other Successful QBs Have Sat – Namely Aaron Rodgers & Jay Cutler
Going back to the draft process Frazier said the Vikings are “looking up to the rest of the division” at the games most important position. Well Leslie… that’s correct. But what’s not mentioned are two key numbers – 48 & 12. Those are the number of starts that Aaron Rodgers & Jay Cutler sat behind someone else before being anointed the starter of their respected teams. And I know Brett Favre wasn’t the best of mentors towards Rodgers, but he still got to learn the complexities of the NFL behind a great coaching staff. Cutler also got to learn for part of a season behind Jake Plummer, who wasn’t the prettiest of QBs but had a 40-18 record as a starter and could make plays on his feet. Matthew Stafford (who was drafted #1 overall in 2009 and received the largest rookie deal ever at the time) struggled his rookie season compiling a record of 2-8 with only 13 TDs and 20 interceptions.
Vikings Still A Veteran Team
Rick Spielman has discussed on numerous occasions that he’d like to get younger in all aspects. We do have 10 rookie draft picks competing for roster spots and it’s a safe bet there will be a few more once the preseason begins. But the fact of the matter is we were the oldest team in the league last year and still have veteran guys like Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson, Visanthe Shiancoe, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson in that locker room. And that’s just on offense! How would they respond if Ponder struggles and this becomes a lost season? Are they seriously willing to tolerate a year of growing pains for Ponder’s development? Don’t forget Adrian Peterson has his sights on being the best running back of all-time (seriously)… say it takes Ponder 2-3 years to develop and then we have an over-the-hill Adrian trying to lead his team to the playoffs again. Is that a pleasant thought? Shiancoe talked to NFL Network in April saying he believed the Vikings should go with a veteran QB and went on to point out that the “CBA is kind of cutting up this offseason up a little bit — and that’s where camaraderie is built — especially rookies that’s where you learn the system.” For the record, at this time last year Sam Bradford already had 15 practices with his teammates. Ponder is at 0.
There May Not Be A 2012 Minnesota Vikings
With news today that Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton stated he is unsure he would call a fall special session for a new Vikings stadium and the teams lease expiring at the end of the season, it must cross the entire front offices mind that time is not on their side. Lets do a little role-play. Say you’re at a casino with $10,000 worth of chips, the clock is about to strike midnight and your name so happens to be Cinderella. Do you keep playing small bets to increase your chip total and build for the future? Or do you go “all in” with the little time you have left before the fun ends?
That’s what I thought. Now obviously a Super Bowl QB isn’t lying along the side of the curb, but if knowing this was your last go doesn’t taking a flyer on Donovan McNabb or trading for a winner in Kyle Orton make a littler more sense than going with a rookie?
We’ll know soon enough what direction this goes. Whatever the decision is we’ll just hope it is in the best long-term interest of the Minnesota Vikings. And for more information on what you can do to help the Vikings Stadium cause and keep them in Minnesota feel free to visit SaveTheVikes.org.
Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig