Christian Ponder has played poorly enough in recent games that people are starting to call for his benching. This Bench Ponder lobby may or may not include Percy Harvin and other of his teammates. But it’s a moot point anyway because Leslie Frazier has no intention of benching Christian Ponder. He has made that perfectly clear. And should anyone question the team’s commitment to Ponder, Frazier has a pretty good built-in comeback. Frazier can just say, ”Who else am I supposed to play? Joe Webb?”
There are people who will say “Hell yes, play Joe Webb.” But let’s be honest about Joe Webb for a second. Joe Webb is not the answer. He’s not the short-term answer and he’s certainly not the long-term answer. I know Webb has come into some games in the past and given the team a lift but that was mostly about defenses not adjusting right away to his speed. When teams have prepared for Webb, they’ve had no trouble handling Webb. Webb may bring certain uncommon physical tools to the table, but as a passer, he’s never shown much.
The fact is that, as popular as Webb may be with the fans, he clearly doesn’t have the full trust of the coaching staff. During camp this year there was even heavy speculation that Webb would be cut and Sage Rosenfels would be made the #2 quarterback. That Rosenfels was ultimately the one to go, and Webb was kept, in my mind says less about Webb and more about Rick Spielman’s approach.
Let me explain that last statement. It boils down to this. Why keep Joe Webb if you don’t think he’s a very good quarterback? Why not keep Sage Rosenfels, a reliable veteran back-up who in the preseason showed a pretty good grasp of the offense? Think about where we are now with Ponder. Wouldn’t the Vikings be better off with Rosenfels as an option instead of Webb?
But that’s just my point. I don’t think Rick Spielman wanted Leslie Frazier to have that option. Because if Frazier had that option right now, he might be tempted to take it. I think Spielman deliberately saddled Frazier with Webb as the only back-up because he wanted Frazier to leave Ponder in no matter what.
Spielman is committed to making it work with Ponder. But he must’ve suspected that Ponder would struggle this year. Ponder is not Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson. He’s not an instinctive quarterback. He’s a guy who’s going to take a lot of refining to get him right. It’s probably at least a two year plan with Ponder, maybe a three year plan.
But Spielman also knows that the Vikings have a lot of veterans on the squad. And the veterans are not interested in standing by while a 2nd-year quarterback struggles. They want to win now. And you can bet some of them have been letting Leslie Frazier know this during Ponder’s recent struggles.
But what is Leslie Frazier supposed to do? Play Joe Webb? This is exactly the situation Spielman wanted to create. A situation where Frazier would have no choice but to play Ponder come hell or high water. Trust me, if the Vikes had a legit veteran back-up like Sage Rosenfels, the veterans would be in Frazier’s ear even more. They would be calling behind the scenes for Ponder to be benched.
But the veterans certainly know that Joe Webb gives them no better shot than Ponder. So they’re less likely to clamor for a change if Joe Webb is the only option.
It almost sounds like I’m putting forth a conspiracy theory, but I actually don’t think it’s that far-fetched. It makes perfect sense actually. Spielman knew the kind of touchy dynamic that might come about if the team played well as a whole but Ponder struggled. And he knew Leslie Frazier might bow to the veterans if they pressed him hard enough to make a QB change. Spielman essentially took the decision out of Frazier’s hands. He created a situation where it’s Ponder or no one. And the veterans will just have to swallow that.
Now it’s on Ponder to vindicate Spielman’s faith. If he starts playing better, this will be forgotten. If he continues struggling, the veterans might revolt even with Joe Webb as the only option. Maybe Percy Harvin will volunteer to take over as QB. How about full-time Wild Cat with Percy Harvin behind center? It would be interesting at least.
(Note: To those of you thinking “What about McLeod Bethel-Thompson?” My only response is, stop listening to PA. MBT is not in the picture.)
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