Christian Ponder is afraid to go down the field.
Jennings spoke to ESPN on a number of matters, including the quarterback situation in Minnesota. As we all saw with our own eyes (and the stats bore it out rather starkly), Jennings performed much better last season when Matt Cassel and not Ponder was under center. And that wasn’t an accident.
Jennings told ESPN the basic difference between Cassel and Ponder. He was nice about it, but you can tell he isn’t particularly high on Ponder’s approach.
Both quarterbacks had different ways they saw the game, which is why you saw Matt and I have success. Christian and I, not that we didn’t have success, but his safety net was more of the checkdown. Matt, being in an offense where he’s been able to move the ball and have success in New England and Kansas City, he understands that in order to win games, you’ve got to move the ball down the field.
Essentially, Jennings is saying that Ponder is gun shy. Ponder doesn’t want to cut it loose down the field unless the receiver is wide open. And sometimes, as we also saw last year, even when the receiver is open Ponder still won’t cut it loose.
Ponder’s take-no-chances approach is probably at least partly the fault of the now-departed coaching staff, who clearly babied the quarterback too much, and never got him to where he felt comfortable letting it fly.
But it’s not all on the coaches. A player invested with natural confidence doesn’t need to be coached into an aggressive mindset. He has that mindset to begin with, and sometimes may need to be coached out of it, for his own protection.
Ponder is not aggressive enough by nature and was pushed into an even more timid mindset by Bill Musgrave and Leslie Frazier. It probably took Greg Jennings all of five minutes to figure out what the deal was with Ponder. It’s no shock that he prefers playing with Matt Cassel, a quarterback who, even if he is only average or slightly above overall, at least isn’t afraid to go deep when the opportunity presents.