We are only one day into OTAs and it’s already clear what the company line is going to be on the Vikings’ QB competition: It’s not Cassel vs. Bridgewater, it’s Cassel vs. Bridgewater vs. Ponder.
In case you had any doubt that this is meant to be seen as a three way competition, just have a gander at Mike Wobschall’s post on the first day of OTAs. You’ll notice a preponderance of Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Cassel news, and then way down at the bottom, a token item on Christian Ponder.
“All three Vikings quarterbacks got an opportunity to run with the first group, and Christian Ponder’s best moment of the day came during one of those reps,” Wobschall writes. “He diagnosed the defensive look pre-snap and adjusted his protection before taking a snap from the gun formation. After taking the snap, Ponder manipulated the safeties and identified single coverage on Simpson. Seeing an opportunity to let Simpson make a play, Ponder lofted a perfectly-placed pass in a spot over the top of the cornerback and underneath the safety, allowing Simpson to make a leaping catch for what would’ve been a 30-yard completion down the right sideline.”
The ploy would be more effective if the Ponder item didn’t seem so blatantly tacked-on, but we get the point anyway. There are three quarterbacks on this roster, and all are on equal footing as of now. That’s what we are meant to believe. We don’t believe it, but that won’t stop the team from pushing the idea on us.
Someone has decided that it’s bad for the fans to think of this too much as a two-man fight between Cassel and Bridgewater. I suspect this is not being done to protect Christian Ponder’s feelings. Nor is it being done to prop up his trade value. I suspect it’s mostly about taking pressure off Teddy Bridgewater.
What the Vikings don’t want is people getting hung up on the QB battle between the rookie and the veteran, a narrative that will only cause Cassel to get frustrated and Bridgewater to potentially get nervous. Better to make this about an open competition between three combatants, with the front runners not emerging until at least training camp.
At the very least, this buys you some time to get Teddy Bridgewater acclimated. It doesn’t do much for Matt Cassel’s potential irritation at being bombarded with “mentor” questions, but who cares? He’s not the future, Bridgewater is.
For this approach to work, of course, the media and fans have to go along with it. But I really don’t see either reporters or fans buying this particular sack of baloney. One way or another, this story is going to develop into a straight-up Cassel vs. Bridgewater narrative. The Vikings may not like this, but they can’t stop it. The media want the one-on-one battle, and one way or another, they will make it into that.
And whatever the media make this into, that’s what fans will see. Mike Wobschall can only do so much.