Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings Working Hard to Erase Perception of Cassel vs. Bridgewater Competition

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.

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Tags: Christian Ponder Matt Cassel Minnesota Vikings Teddy Bridgewater

  • Scott Mielke

    This entire offseason, even before Bridgewater was drafted the coaches, wobby, and all press has been talking about the open competition. Although that article did obvious tack on the Ponder spot at the end, it’s been said all along that even he is apart of QB race.

  • trinity

    I predict a lot more ponder compliments to come. Just a hunch, but I think they’re trying to build some semblance of a trade value for him.

  • JJSamurai

    CP7, they just saved the best for last. He was the only qb that didn’t throw a pick at OTA so far. Doesn’t mean anything but a good start.

  • cherrie 10

    I wish someone as smart as the guy that wrote this article was the coach. It’s always smart to eliminate a 25 year old first round pick from the quarterback competition. Especially when there are no real stars in that competition. All because he doesn’t like him. Brilliant.

    • trinity

      Do you think maybe it’s more to do with ponders production, or lack thereof, than it is to to with dislike? Maybe? Because it seems like you just tried to gloss over what happened immediately after he was that first round pick. I think it’s fine if he’s in the competition. Of course, I think his efforts will still land him at QB3 on this team, but It doesn’t hurt to give him one more shot.

      • cherrie 10

        Yep I agree he was impressive two years ago and unimpressive last year. I also realize the coaching staff was awful. All I’m saying is if the staff has completely condemned him to 3rd string without even watching him this year, they’d probably be as inept as the former staff. They should be looking at not just Ponder but every player with open eyes. Is it a bad idea to let everyone play and go with your best guy? And the guy who wrote the article and his constant juvenile shots at Ponder ruin what should be a good website.

        • trinity

          I don’t have much faith in ponder. But I agree it doesn’t hurt to give him a chance. You are getting your wish though. They are letting him in on the quarterback competiton. Once the season starts, we will see what position he’s in and know whether or not he made the most of his chance.

        • Zack Selzman

          Ponder was not impressive 2 years ago, Peterson was. Ponders poor play caused other teams to develop the strategy of crowding the box and stopping Peterson and not suffering any negative consequences because Ponder could not take advantage of that situation. In fairness the Vikings did not have any big superstars at wide receiver, but still…. impressive?? I don’t know who you were watching..

          • cherrie 10

            I was watching a 23 year old quaterback throw for just under 3,000 yards and 18td’s and rush for another 250 yards and 2 td’s. I also watched him play his best 4 games in December. I watched him actually outplay Aaron Rodgers in week 17 and then watched the same offense with AP go nowhere without him against the same team a week later. All with a subpar OC and head coach. I’m not saying he should have made the pro bowl but i was impressed. Not sure what you expected. Peyton Manning numbers?

    • Jake

      Zinski has built a reputation here for himself as someone who knows jack shit about football. He’s a gossip writer.

  • Billy Schwandt

    I think the problem with Ponder is he can not handle pressure and takes of running and not scanning the field to find a open receiver. He might look good in practice but can not handle in a game. Where as Bridgewater can!!!

  • Orion

    IMHO, Ponder has sucked ever since he was our starter. Some decent games but then it’d all fall apart again.

    But this SHOULD be an open competition. Cassel was not good last year either (he was merely a bit better than Ponder) – it is not a case of clear superiority of Cassel over Ponder. Important also to realize that under a different offensive scheme and coaching Ponder just might do much better.

    I hope it really is an open competition. That should be pretty close to the case at every position. In the case of Vikings QBs, however, I expect Teddy to win (but maybe not in time to be our starter at the first regular-season game).

    • firefly16

      I agree that at times Ponder looks like he can’t handle pressure. But I think it’s because of a lack of confidence which the previous coaching staff created. They took a good prospect and mishandled him with lack of coaching and players surrounding him. Ponder is cheap to keep for one more season. He’s young and athletically talented. With the proper coaching, the Vikings may as well take a chance on Ponder improving and contributing to the team. So far though I don’t see a three man competition at QB in OTAs. With Teddy missing they gave pretty much all of the reps to Cassel. Why? I really don’t think Cassel is the better QB. The media is to blame for the fans hatred of Ponder. I think the team is in a touchy situation if they play Ponder.

  • NFL Buddha

    Cassel either started or came in off the bench to bring the Vikings from behind to win in all five of their victories – Fact. Cassel did enough to win the Ravens game only to have the official call a dubious pass interference to overturn a game winning interception and then allow a bobbled-catch to be counted as a TD with 9 seconds left – Fact. Cassel’s other two losses came in the week Adrian Peterson son was murdered and in the worst team effort of the year against the Bengals – Fact. Cassel is a ProBowl QB when healthy – Fact. Ponder looks to have finally improved physically however his mental development and just how much better he would be in 2014 is unknown. I have seen Bridgewater perform the only time real pressure was on him and he is down right terrible. Manziel was intriguing but Bridgewater, who cannot get his wobbly balls down the field, was a massive mistake. As a football fan I really wanted to see just how good Cassel could be this year with such a solid supporting cast, miles above the flotsam and jetsam that was in Kansas City. It seems that I am going to be denied that opportunity by their dipsomaniac coach. In reading the comments to this article and others I was shocked to learn that Viking fans are strongly in favor of the QB most like the worst starters in the league last year, Geno Smith and EJ Manuel. If Bridgewater does indeed start it will be much worse than 6-10 or 8-8. It will be very, very ugly. As the Kinks once sang, you’ve got to give the people what they want.