Has Christian Ponder Finally Run Out of Chances?


Nov 17, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This may finally be it for Christian Ponder. The quarterback may have put the last nails in his own coffin with two terrible interceptions in the second half against Seattle. There is no possible excuse for those two throws. They were not the result of pressure in his face. The defense did nothing spectacular on either play. The intended receivers can’t be held responsible. They were flat-out mental errors by Christian Ponder. Terrible reads. Throws that never should have been made. Period.

Ponder offered no real explanation for either throw when asked after the game, but simply muttered his usual nonsense about “correctable mistakes.” How many more times is Ponder going to recite that tired non-answer? The truth is, I don’t think Ponder even knows what he’s doing wrong. He’s seeing stuff out there that isn’t there. He is completely bewildered by the whole situation.

It’s probably silly to even be frustrated by Ponder at this point, but the fact is I kind of am. I kind of bought into the idea, after the Washington game, that Ponder might be turning a corner. He might finally be rounding into form as a quarterback. But based on what went down against Seattle, I would have to say I was wrong. Ponder hasn’t turned a corner at all. He is still the same old Ponder.

Looking back, how good was the performance against Washington really? The numbers were solid and there’s no doubt Ponder made some nice throws during the course of the game. But that Washington defense is just not a very good defense. Ponder had it easy in that game. He had some wide open receivers and he was able to hit them. Seattle didn’t leave guys that wide open. They forced Ponder to make decisions, and he made bad decisions.

None of this should have come as a surprise. We’ve all been here before with Ponder. The difference this time was Leslie Frazier’s reaction. In the past Frazier has left Ponder out there to take his lumps, but today Leslie finally got fed up with Ponder and yanked him in favor of Matt Cassel. Frazier said after the game that he put in Cassel hoping for a 4th quarter spark, but that is absurd. Frazier knew the game was already lost by then. He didn’t expect a spark from Cassel, he just was sick of looking at Ponder.

Frazier’s clear disgust over Ponder leads one to wonder if this isn’t finally it for the quarterback. Sunday’s performance may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. But if Ponder is really done this time, who starts in his place? Is it Cassel? Josh Freeman?

The Cassel-Ponder choice is six-of-one/a-half-dozen-of-the-other. The only true choice to be made here is between Cassel/Ponder and Josh Freeman. Of the three QBs, Freeman is the one who still qualifies as a mystery guest. There is still room to hope with Freeman. Cassel and Ponder give you nothing except the promise of more mediocrity occasionally trending upward toward competence before reverting again to the uninspiring.

Not that Freeman is some kind of slam dunk. His one game with the Vikings this year was anything but an inspiring performance. In fact it was a worse mess than anything Christian Ponder ever dreamed of throwing out there. But Freeman has had a few weeks to work on it and maybe if you put him back out there you’ll get a different result. Is there anything wrong with trying?

If it’s not Freeman this weekend against Green Bay, then who will it be? Will Frazier send Ponder out there again hoping he can pull it together, or has Leslie finally washed his hands of Christian? Matt Cassel is certainly capable of giving you a good performance, but at this point what is the value of a good performance from Matt Cassel? Where does he fit in the long-range plan?

He doesn’t fit in the long-range plan, and at this point neither does Ponder. Only Freeman has the chance to be part of the future for the Vikings, but the Vikings seem reluctant to let him on the field. It’s all such a disaster that you don’t even know what to say anymore. Maybe it doesn’t even matter at this point. Ponder. Cassel. Freeman. Whatever. Just get this season over with.

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