Part of being a professional quarterback and the leader of a team is answering tough questions. Christian Ponder had plenty of such questions to field after being benched Sunday for being too loose with the ball, and the rookie proved that he knows the right things to say after that kind of debacle. He took responsibility for his poor play and didn’t use his injured hip as an alibi.
“I wasn’t playing well enough,” Ponder told reporters in the wake of the Vikings’ 34-28 defeat. “I was hurting the team instead of helping the team. I was excited to see Joe play well and bring us back.” Ponder added, “I don’t like to use the injury as an excuse. I made great plays with the injury, I made bad plays with the injury. I’m not going to use that excuse. I didn’t play very well.”
Ponder’s poor day included three interceptions, one for a pick six, and a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown. His last pass of the day was a terrible attempted across-the-body throw in the direction of Percy Harvin that was intercepted by Eric Wright. During the run-back Ponder was flattened by Stephen Tullock, a blow that may have aggravated his bruised hip. That shot, plus the three picks, convinced Leslie Frazier that it was time to let Ponder sit and give Joe Webb some action.
“This wasn’t the Christian we were accustomed to seeing,” Frazier explained when asked about the QB switch.
Joe Webb would end up leading the Vikings on a pair of TD drives to put them in position for a stunning upset. In the end the comeback fell short, but Webb played well enough to fire up a QB controversy in some people’s eyes. Leslie Frazier quickly threw water on that particular fire, assuring everyone that Ponder will remain the #1 QB.
In reality there never should’ve been talk of a QB controversy. Joe Webb may be entertaining but Tim Tebow he is not (as he proved by fumbling the ball on the Vikings’ final ill-fated play). Christian Ponder has shown more than enough this year, despite all his turnovers, to earn the QB of the Future tag. Webb proved yesterday that he is a valuable back-up who can be counted on to play well in the pinch, but by no means did he show enough to convince anyone that he’s starting material.
So there’s no reason for anyone to jump off the Ponder bandwagon. My only quibble with him yesterday was the way he stood on the sidelines openly pouting after getting benched. I don’t mind Ponder being upset, but the right way to act in that situation is not to make an angry glaring face for two quarters, it’s to clap and show enthusiasm for what your teammates are doing without you.
Ponder lost a few form points in my mind by looking irritated during Webb’s comeback, but he smoothed it over after the game by saying all the right things. The take-away from everything that happened yesterday, from the interceptions to the poor sideline show, is that Ponder still has a lot to learn about all aspects of being an NFL QB. Despite the calls of naysayers, there’s no reason for Leslie Frazier to lose faith in him based on one terrible game and one entertaining Joe Webb performance. If the Vikings are going to turn it around quickly, Ponder has to be the man. That was the case going into Sunday’s game and it’s still the case today.