Leslie Frazier has put to rest any talk of benching Christian Ponder. On Friday the coach responded to questions about the possibility of Ponder being sat down for poor play. He said, “We have complete confidence he’s going to do a good job.” In a talk with Bob Sansevere Frazier elaborated on the Ponder situation and more generally the problems with the offense. He made it clear he doesn’t see Ponder as the main issue.
“We have to do a better job around him. There are some things we can do offensively to help him, and we have to work on that in these days we have prior to playing Seattle. And if we get that done, we’ll see an improvement in his play, as well,” Frazier said.
Frazier is covering his guy’s butt here a little bit and I have no problem with that. There’s truth in what he says anyway. The whole offense outside of Adrian Peterson was pretty much inadequate on Thursday. I don’t think I even need to list the issues again. Bill Musgrave’s playcalling. The pass protection. The lack of receiver talent. It’s a familiar litany.
Point here is, nothing would be solved by benching Christian Ponder. Has he been a good quarterback the last couple games? No. But Joe Webb is going to do a better job? McLeod Bethel-Thompson? Or are they supposed to scour the waiver wire and pick up a competent veteran. David Garrard? Vince Young? Bring back Sage Rosenfels?
These are fantasy scenarios thrown out by fans who are at a total loss. Leslie Frazier doesn’t deal in fantasy. He deals in the realities of the personnel he has available to him. The reality is, Rick Spielman decided to cast his lot with Christian Ponder. The Vikings elected not to pick up a veteran QB fall-back option this off-season. They made up their minds months ago that Ponder was the guy. There is no second option.
So it’s silly to talk about benching Christian Ponder. It was silly before Frazier’s statements and it’s silly now. The Vikings will have to ride out Ponder’s growing pains and the fans will too. The onus here is on Bill Musgrave to find ways of working around Ponder’s obvious deficiencies. It would help if the Vikings had a legit #1 outside receiver who could beat single coverage on a consistent basis but they don’t. They have Jerome Simpson. Who might be a decent #3 but is clearly not a #1.
They also have Percy Harvin and he’s a great guy to have. But teams have been scheming to take Harvin away and now it’s up to Musgrave to find other things. I wish Kyle Rudolph was the answer but it’s obvious he doesn’t have the speed to run up the seam and beat linebackers. Most of Rudolph’s action is on short over-the-middle stuff and in the flat on bootlegs. He’s no Gronkowski.
It’s the lack of speed that’s really killing the Vikes in their passing game. The one guy they have who might be able to run by defenders, Jarius Wright, is stuck on the bench because the coaches don’t have faith in him. Until they find a second guy who can beat deep coverage now and then it’s going to be a slog. It’s going to be a lot of check downs and dump off passes and forcing it to Percy Harvin even if the defense is keying on him. And as long as that deep game isn’t there, teams will keep blitzing the heck out of Ponder.
It’s a vicious circle and you don’t get out of it by benching Ponder. As Leslie Frazier said, you have to add pieces around him. Right now the Vikings just don’t have those pieces. They elected not to dip into the free agent market this offseason and pick up a guy like Vincent Jackson (whose value to Tampa Bay is plainly obvious; just ask Mike Williams who is getting single coverage all over the place). So they’re stuck with what they’ve got.
They need to come up with a game plan to maximize the talent they do have. Bill Musgrave is pretty clever in terms of scheming so I think he’ll come up with something. I don’t know if he’s that good at in-game playcalling though. Maybe they should let Ponder call plays. Hey, it’s worth a shot.
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