Joe Webb is Fun to Watch, But He's Still Not the Answer (Probably)

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.

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Tags: Bill Musgrave Christian Ponder Joe Webb Leslie Frazier Minnesota Vikings

  • fleetfootmike

    There’s one spurious argument here. What’s past is past. Whether Webb or Ponder was the first round pick really doesn’t matter any more – what’s done is done, the moving finger writes, and having writ… and all that. Whoever we’ve invested in in the past, it’s gone, done, spent and not recoverable. The question we should be asking in the off-season is independent of what’s gone before, and it’s simply ‘which of these two is, right here and right now, the better prospect as the Vikes long-term quarterback’. End. Of.

  • MikeHolly

    I am just disgusted with the Vikings. Frazier misdiagnosed the problem in 2010 by blaming Favre/TJack/Webb instead of Berrian/Rice and McKinnie/Sullivan/Herrera/Loadholt. It was a disgrace reaching with a first round pick for noodle-armed Ponder when they should have traded the pick to stock up on WRs and O-lineman.

  • lazyloon1117

    Seriously – Webb might be a half ok back up? Ponder can’t throw a sideline pass – well, he can but it’s a pick six throw. He lacks the arm strength and that was the rap on him when he was drafted. Webb has LESS game experience than Ponder and yet, against the same defenses has outperformed Ponder statistically. I don’t get why Ponder being a first round pick means the Vikings have to suck while he fails to grow when there’s a perfectly good alternative rotting on the bench or coming in for gimmick plays. I seem to recall Webb led the Vikings to four straight scores in the second half. That was plenty of time for the Redskins to adjust and he managed to get a perfect passer rating on 4/5 with the fifth pass a mostly dropped ball. He throws the occasional bad ball, then again he’s only 1-1 with one near rescue of Ponder and a second rescue of Ponder. Ponder’s body of work is 1-7 plus the Lions and Redskins game. That’s not impressing me in the least. He’s skittish in the pocket and flushes too fast and too jumpy. He’s just not ready and probably lacking the arm strength to ever be anything more than a game manager. Webb will get dumped in the off season and end up at another team where his skills will be appreciated and used. We’ll regret dumping him and be stuck with Ponder disappointing us for the next four years at which time we’ll be back in the QB first round draft mess all over again.

  • lazyloon1117

    @MikeHolly Anybody noticing that TJack is improving under a coach and team that actually thinks he’s got skills? Same thing will happen to Webb, He’ll get tossed aside and I’m hoping like heck he gets picked up by Mike Tomlin. He’d be an amazing addition to the Steelers, as a wide slot receiver and backup QB who could learn from Big Ben and be groomed to step in if Big Ben gets hurt again.

  • EthanSommer

    So you are saying he puts Ponder on top because he doesn’t understand sunk costs.

  • lazyloon1117

    Actually Ponder’s long throws tend to be underthrown. I’ve yet to see him overthrow someone where the ball landed inbounds so I think the jury is out, and not in a good way regarding his arm strength. His sideline passes have NO velocity and it appears the defenses he faces are sitting on those throws and that stupid screen pass they kept trying with Harvin that didn’t work in the least. It seems to me that a 3-5 step drop is the way a lot QB’s throw – to a spot I might add. It’s up to the receiver to have the rhythm with a QB to get to the spot. I also have to admit that I’ve seen Webb throw short, then again I’ve seen Ponder bounce a pass in on a regular basis. @tuckerbjt

  • lazyloon1117

    @EthanSommer I’m thinking that’s exactly the problem. Plus Frazer went out on a limb for Ponder so he’s had a leg up since the day he showed up in training camp. If you look at their respective performance in preseason, Webb performed as well or better than Ponder. He’s actually got less experience than Ponder at QB at this stage of the season. Personally for all the grief they handed out to Farve about not teaching it appears Rogers, TJack and Webb have benefited from watching BF run a team. Webb reminds me a bit of BF, at least in the energy he brings to the huddle. In the Lions game Ponder was harried and jumpy the first half. When Webb came in I noted the O-line seemed to pick it up a notch and he wasn’t hurried nearly as much as Ponder. Of course that might have been because the Lions were aware he might just take off and it slowed their pell mell rush in a sort of play action pass way. Not sure why but he just looks more comfortable back there and he can run.

  • lazyloon1117

    @tuckerbjt Look. I’m not down on Ponder, he’s done some good things. But WTH are we doing wasting Joe Webb like we do? He comes in for a play and naturally the defense keys on him since he’s not out there for a complete series – then again we have so many three and outs we can’t get into a rhythm. My kid and I are hoping the Vikings give up on Joe. I’m sure he’s due unrestricted free agency pretty quick since he was a sixth round pick. Our hope is he goes to Pittsburgh where I think he would thrive under Mike Tomlin. He could be Big Ben’s back up/fill in and in the interim run from the slot and scare the heck out of the opposition every time he comes in motion behind Ben. Vikings would never get that clever with him. Sadly they’ll waste his talent and it makes me wonder why they so quickly dismissed him and left him to sit on the bench when they have one playmaker at WR. Shades of TJack, who seems to be getting more improved each game out in Seattle. Wonder if some day we’re going to regret letting him go so easily, just like I fear Joe will be sent packing and he’ll come back and make us pay later.