The sports media world is abuzz this morning with the news of Tim Tebow’s promotion to starting quarterback in Denver. John Fox stuck with Kyle Orton as long as he could, but a 1-4 start forced his hand. Now the second-year man Tebow will finally get a chance to prove his doubters wrong. Whatever happens, you can bet the media will be all over this story like teenage girls on Justin Bieber. For whatever reason, Tebow just attracts that kind of attention.
It was clearly never John Fox’s intention to give Tebow this chance at this time. In a perfect world, Orton would’ve played competently enough to keep Tebow on the bench, possibly for the entire season. But sometimes our plans don’t work out the way he hope. Just ask Leslie Frazier who is currently facing a situation similar to what John Fox has been dealing with.
Frazier certainly hoped that his own young, untested quarterback, Christian Ponder, would spend his entire rookie season sitting on the bench watching Donovan McNabb lead the team. But like the Broncos, the Vikings have gotten off to a disappointing start, and the quarterback play has been a big reason why. Now McNabb is hearing the boos, and with ticket-sales flagging and public support for a new stadium still hovering at lukewarm levels, Frazier may be feeling the pressure to make a change.
So far, Frazier has resisted whatever pressure he may be feeling from within the organization to move on from McNabb, a quarterback he reportedly hand-picked as his veteran caretaker. Despite another poor performance Sunday, McNabb will remain the starter. The fact that the Vikings won Sunday in spite of McNabb certainly makes it easier for Frazier to stick with his guy, but how much longer will Frazier be able to justify hanging with McNabb while the rookie rides the pines?
The argument for going with Ponder is obvious: The season is lost so why not find out what you have in your #12 overall draft pick? If he’s good then you’ll know you have your QB of the future, and you can turn your attention in next year’s draft to other positions of need. If he’s bad then that makes it all the easier for you to justify picking another quarterback next year – maybe Andrew Luck if things go that far in the tank.
Certainly this is the thinking behind the Tebow move in Denver. John Fox now realizes there’s no point in watching Orton struggle when he has a potential future starter waiting behind him, and if Tebow fails then Denver enters the Luck sweepstakes. It’s easy to look at the Denver move and say the Vikings should do the same, but there’s one thing we don’t know about the Minnesota situation, and that’s the coaching staff’s opinion of Ponder’s status.
All we as fans have seen of Ponder is a few series in some preseason games, and that’s not enough for us to know if Ponder is actually ready to step into the starting role. The coaches know where Ponder is on his learning curve, and it seems to me that if they’re not ready to go to him now, it’s because they simply don’t think he’s far enough along to be put under fire.
Unlike some, I don’t buy the line that says Leslie Frazier is sticking with McNabb out of personal loyalty. Frazier has already shown himself to be dispassionate if not downright ruthless in making personnel decisions – just ask Bryant McKinnie – and I truly believe that if Frazier thought Ponder was the better QB for this team at this time, he would pull the trigger. I also think if Frazier thought Joe Webb was a better option than McNabb he would go to Webb.
Clearly, Frazier believes McNabb is the best option for the Vikings as of now. This may be hard to swallow in light of what we’ve seen from McNabb on the field, but it’s the reality of the situation. As usual, fans are going more with emotion than reason. They’ve become angry watching McNabb fail to make basic throws with any accuracy, and are engaging in typical fan behavior by calling for the back-up.
The fans’ emotional reaction is not wrong, but Frazier would be wrong to allow similar emotions to dictate his decision making. Brad Childress was occasionally swayed by his personal frustrations in this way, and it led to some pretty brutal personnel moves, including last season’s ill-fated Randy Moss experiment. Childress probably would’ve given in to his irritation at McNabb by now and yanked him, but Frazier is clearly not so easily swayed by his own emotions.
To me Frazier seems like a calculated, measured person, and I believe every decision he makes is thoroughly reasoned-out. That doesn’t mean every decision will work out, but give me a coach who thinks things through, consulting with all his assistants, over the one who reacts to whatever he may be feeling at any given moment, and fails to listen to other possibly more rational voices.
In the end, I trust Frazier to make the right decision with his quarterback. If he thinks McNabb should stay in, then it’s because he doesn’t like what either Webb or Ponder can offer right now. There may be nothing to gain by sticking with the veteran while the team keeps losing, but there’s also nothing to gain by throwing a rookie into the fray before he’s ready.
Ponder isn’t Tebow, and it would be wrong to take Denver’s approach as some kind of example of what the Vikings should do. The situations are different, as as fans we are simply not close enough to them to really know what the right move would be. All we can do is wait for Frazier to decide and, if he turns out to be wrong, second-guess him till the cows come home.