Leslie Frazier must like quarterback controversies. How else do you explain his comments after Joe Webb’s stunning second half effort against the Redskins? There was going to be a controversy anyway after a game like that, but Frazier only made it worse by what he said. When asked about the possibility of Webb winning the starting job over Christian Ponder Frazier replied, “Some of the things he does, man, and what it does to the rest of our team — you can’t ignore it. It’s something we’re going to take a real hard look at as we go forward. He definitely lifts our team. He’s done it. He did it a season ago as well.”
Talk about adding fuel to the fire. But I’m sure Frazier was only caught up in the moment. I’m sure that if you got him in a calmer mood and really interrogated him he’d say something different. He’d say that he likes Joe Webb a lot but he really wants Christian Ponder to succeed. The franchise would be better off if Ponder succeeds. The Vikings used a first round pick on Ponder. If he flops, that’s a first round pick down the drain. Webb was a sixth rounder and wasn’t even taken as a quarterback. He wasn’t even Leslie Frazier’s draft pick. Not only does the organization have more invested in Ponder, Frazier himself has more invested in Ponder.
And anyway, does anyone really believe Webb can be the man long-term? Sure he looks better than Ponder now. He obviously has more confidence than Ponder, and his running ability gives his game a dimension that clearly throws defenses off-balance at least initially. As a passer though, Ponder has greater upside. He’s already demonstrated that. Webb is more of a gimmick quarterback, like Tim Tebow, and as such has a limited shelf-life. If Webb did start, defenses would quickly catch on to him the way they seemingly have with Tebow. The option plays wouldn’t be there after awhile. Webb would be forced to become more of a traditional pocket quarterback, and that’s when his flaws would become exposed.
Then again, maybe I’m selling Webb short. Maybe Webb has a lot more going for him as a passer than we all think. Maybe, if forced to become a real quarterback and not a Tebow-type guy who needs a special offense built around him, Webb would still get it done. But I doubt it.
Here’s what I do know: Bill Musgrave loves Joe Webb. In his heart Musgrave wishes he was a triple-option coach for some nowhere college team and for that kind of self-styled genius, Webb is a gift from heaven. Webb allows Musgrave to run every kind of dopey play his hyper-active mind can concoct. But, like Webb himself, Musgrave’s tricky-dicky offense has a limited upside. For the team to succeed Musgrave’s system must evolve beyond the silly Blazer gimmickry. The Vikings aren’t going to win anything with Bill Musgrave designing wacky option plays for Joe Webb. They win if Christian Ponder realizes his potential, and if Musgrave designs and learns to run a genuine NFL offense. Or they could just fire Musgrave and hire a real offensive coordinator. Either way works for me.
At the end of the day, the Joe Webb stuff is just a fun distraction at the tail end of a dismal season. Leslie Frazier may believe Webb’s earned a shot at the starting job next season, but when push comes to shove, Ponder will still get every chance to succeed. Ponder would have to look really bad in training camp for Frazier to actually consider a change on the depth chart. When you’re a 12th overall pick, you get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why, when you get right down to it, the controversy is mostly just hot air. No matter what Leslie Frazier says or anyone else thinks, Christian Ponder’s status for next season hasn’t changed.