Yes there is a quarterback controversy in Minnesota. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Christian Ponder sat due to injury and Matt Cassel came in and played well in leading the Vikings to a season-saving victory against Pittsburgh. The coaching cliche is, “You don’t lose your job due to injury.” So there should be no question in anyone’s mind that Christian Ponder is the starter as long as he’s healthy and Cassel’s performance doesn’t really factor in.
But listen to Leslie Frazier and you hear something else materializing. Yes Frazier said, “Christian is still injured, but yeah he’s our starting quarterback.” Which sounds like a definitive enough statement of confidence in Ponder. But then read the rest of Frazier’s remarks. “It’s hard to be concrete when you know that Christian is dealing with an injury,” Frazier told the media. “I don’t want to take anything away from what Matt did, but we’ll try to do what’s best for our team. If we thought that Matt gave us the best chance to beat Carolina, then we’d approach that situation as well. If Christian is healthy, then we’ll see what we have to do.”
What exactly does that mean “we’ll see what we have to do?” If Christian is healthy he’s your starting quarterback correct? Then why the wishy-washy language? Why put things out there in a way that will just feed speculation that Ponder’s job could be in trouble even if he does get healthy?
To me these weird, waffling remarks from Frazier are just more evidence of an organization that is in total disarray. We all saw the disastrous results the first three games. The sloppiness. The lack of discipline. The defensive ineptitude especially in two-minute situations. The special teams breakdowns. You ask me, the front office and coaching staff have totally lost control of the situation. The team is practically in a state of open rebellion and the men in charge have no clue how to lock things down.
Well, but at least they righted the ship in Pittsburgh right? They did play more efficiently on offense, avoiding the big mistake that really hurt them. But defensively they had many of the same issues they suffered in the three losses, especially in the linebacker corps and secondary. There’s no doubt that this team has talent but you have to question the men calling the shots. Luckily in London the players were able to make the one play at the end to prevent another crushing defeat, forcing Ben Roethlisberger to fumble, thereby sealing the game
But in the long term, can this team survive with such inconsistent defensive play? And then there’s the elephant in the room: the Ponder vs. Cassel factor. Ponder ran the offense well in the final two games before his injury, but the O played even better with Cassel at the helm. Is this an indication that Cassel is a better QB, or is something more sinister afoot? Do the players, for whatever reason, simply have more confidence in Cassel when it comes to making the reads and delivering the ball where it needs to go?
It seems like Ponder can’t win. He plays a little better, then gets this injury and suddenly he’s on the bench. Here’s where his head coach could make a definitive statement of confidence on his behalf and maybe help him out in the locker room. But instead Frazier minces his words and makes it almost seem that Ponder could be in danger of losing his job, healthy or not. How does this help Ponder grow in the eyes of his teammates?
Again we see another example of the organization undermining Ponder. They did it his initial season by not throwing him into the fire right away. They did it by not properly coaching him from the beginning, encouraging him to run instead of drilling him to stay in the pocket as they should have. They did it by, up until this season, saddling him with subpar receivers. If the coaches and front office won’t show confidence in Ponder, why should his teammates?
Either Frazier is sending a message to the other players saying that even HE doesn’t believe in Ponder, or Frazier is just not a very prudent person when it comes to speaking to the media.