The Minnesota Vikings now officially have a quarterback controversy on their hands after the signing on Sunday night of former Buccaneer Josh Freeman. It would be fair to say that the controversy really began last week in London, where Matt Cassel took over and brought the team to life in a way that current starter Christian Ponder simply has never done. In the coming weeks, we’ll watch as everything plays out, and before the end of the season we will all have a pretty clear idea of what the Vikings will do going forward. But there is one thing that is all but certain at this point: Christian Ponder’s time as a starting quarterback for the Vikings is over.
This article is not about who will end up as the Vikings starter at QB for the rest of the season, and in fact, it’s not even really about Ponder. It’s about how refreshing it is that this team is admitting that the Ponder experiment hasn’t worked out, and that they need to make a change now rather than dragging their feet and wasting valuable time in the career of one of the greatest running backs ever to play the game. If the Vikings do indeed decide to give up on Ponder, cut their losses and move on, it will be a move that is all too rare in the NFL, and certainly here in Minnesota.
We all remember Tarvaris Jackson. We all remember how he was consistently bad for a long time, with a few bright spots here and there. He did just enough to make you, and the coaches, think that he had the talent and ability to be a big time quarterback, he just needed that “little bit” more time to put it all together and really break out. Remind you of anyone else? The T-Jack experiment went on far too long, mostly because of then head coach Brad Childress’ attachment to Jackson. Luckily, it seems the Vikes won’t be making the same mistake with Ponder. The 12th overall pick in the draft is a big investment, and so not surprisingly, it’s not often that a team will abandon a player taken so high after a relatively short time (It does happen though, just ask Trent Richardson). Still, if a guy isn’t going to work out in the long term, it does everyone, players and fans alike, a disservice to continue to ride a player into the ground simply because of what a big investment they were.
It’s something that fans have been saying for a long time, and until very recently I completely disagreed. Ponder isn’t the guy. After seeing Matt Cassel play in London however, it’s become clear that there’s just no going back. Cassel’s performance wasn’t stellar, but the level of poise and confidence he showed, both in the huddle and stepping up into the pocket, were something we’ve just never seen from Ponder. Accuracy and arm strength are two more things that Ponder simply doesn’t have, and after seeing what this Vikings offense can look like with a quarterback that does have those things, it would be impossible to go back.
One last thing for all of the Ponder apologists out there. People still talk about how it takes time to develop a quarterback, which is absolutely true. They point out how some of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play had rocky starts, even worse than Ponder statistically. Eli Manning played poorly for five years before finally breaking out and winning two Super Bowls, and despite his poor play this season, he’s considered to be one of the few elite quarterbacks in the league. There are many problems with the Eli Manning comparison of course. Mainly, the fact that for every Eli Manning, there are dozens of other guys, maybe hundreds throughout the years, who started off poorly, and just never got any better. Ponder will certainly improve with time and experience, but unfortunately, he’s got career backup written all over him. If he hasn’t figured out his footwork and nailed down his accuracy on simple passes by this point, he probably never will.
All this being said, I wish Christian Ponder the best of luck, wherever his career takes him. But like many Vikings fans, I only want one thing, and that’s to see Adrian Peterson hoisting the Lombardi Trophy over his head. The Vikings have a great thing going offensively right now, and it would be a shame to squander the opportunity because someone in charge couldn’t swallow their pride and admit that the 12th overall pick isn’t going to take us where we want to go. The decision to move on from Ponder has come at just the right time, when the Vikings still have time to save the rest of their season. I don’t know if Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman will be the answer long term, but for right now, one of those two guys is the Vikings best option to keep winning games, and that’s all we should care about.