Ben Leber has an issue with Christian Ponder. Twice now I’ve heard Leber come down hard on Ponder and both times it was over non-performance stuff. When Ponder announced his engagement in the middle of the season, Leber accused Ponder of not being media savvy. He said Ponder should’ve waited until after the season because he should’ve known the criticism that would come as a result of his announcement. And the other day on Dan Barreiro’s show, Leber criticized Ponder again. He said Ponder should’ve tried to play against Green Bay despite the nasty swelling and bruising on his right arm. He said Ponder should’ve done the Favre bit because it would’ve won him more respect from his teammates.
The common thread between Leber’s Ponder rips? It’s about leadership. He seems to think Ponder isn’t a good leader. He believes Ponder should keep his personal life under wraps because that stuff draws undue attention. And he thinks Ponder should do a tough-guy act because it will win him points with his teammates.
So, is Leber right? Does Ponder have a leadership issue? Or is this just a case of a former player doing the media tough guy act? Sometimes I think former players, when they join the media circus, they worry a little bit about how they’ll be perceived. They don’t want people to think they’re softballing. So they go harder than normal after certain guys to prove they’re not just ex-jocks who wanna stick up for players.
Or maybe Leber is dead on? Maybe Leber has a legit point about Ponder’s leadership skills? Leber seems like a thoughtful, perceptive guy. He certainly knows about locker room dynamics. I’d be curious to know what Ponder’s teammates think of him. Did they lose respect for him when he bowed out without even trying to play?
Ponder has certainly said all the right things since Saturday. He says it devastated him that he couldn’t play. He says not playing hurt worse than the pain in his arm. I don’t doubt that. And I’m not going to sit here and say he should’ve tried to play. His arm was obviously not right and it likely would’ve done his team no good for him to be out there. It’s not Ponder’s fault that Joe Webb is terrible. It’s not Bill Musgrave’s fault he was stuck with only Joe Webb to work with. It’s Rick Spielman’s fault for keeping Joe Webb around when he could’ve opted to acquire a real back-up.
Spielman’s the rippable guy here, not Ponder. But maybe Leber has a point. Maybe Ponder should’ve made a show of trying to get on the field. Maybe that tough guy stuff matters inside the locker room. From the outside it looks comical. But like I said, Leber knows locker rooms. He would know what matters and what doesn’t. If he questions Ponder’s leadership, even in kind of a round-about way, maybe there’s something there. Maybe Ponder is lacking in certain intangibles.