Folks have been downright brutal to quarterback Christian Ponder since the day he was taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Florida State University. Many fans and experts expressed their displeasure of the team reaching for a quarterback that they felt would have been available much later in the draft and automatically became jaded toward the young passer.
Jun 17, 2014; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) talks with a reporter after practice at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Even after that, things weren’t easy for Christian Ponder. He joined the team during the lockout and only had a limited time to learn the playbook and develop chemistry with his teammates. The veteran on the team, Donovan McNabb, seemed uninterested in acting as a mentor to Ponder and played at such a poor level himself that he ended up getting benched for the rookie.
When Ponder did get a shot on the field, He looked nervous and unprepared. Much of that could probably be attributed to his offensive coordinator and head coach failing to get him mentally ready for action. Not all of it can be blamed on the coaches and the lockout though. Christian Ponder made bad reads and pre-snap evaluations often. It was almost as though the game was moving much too fast for him.
Ponder’s 2011 season was a miserable one at times, but at sometimes he did look good. Since he was such an early draft pick and he showed some flashes of brilliance during his rookie year, the team was willing to work with him in 2012 and give him a more than fair shot at being the starter for his sophomore campaign.
2012 was pretty good. Running back Adrian Peterson nearly broke the NFL’s rushing record for a season and the Vikings were a wild card team in the playoffs. However, Christian Ponder’s performance still seemed very up and down. For every game like the brilliant one he had against the San Francisco 49ers, there was at least one multi-interception effort that left fans and coaches scratching their heads and hoping to see better.
For 2013, the Vikings grew impatient with Ponder and brought in former starter and Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Cassel to compete. We all saw what happened there when we had Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman in an embarrassing carousel of quarterbacks that were the laughing stock of the NFL. None of the quarterbacks could find a rhythm and look good, leaving the Vikings with 5 wins and a last place spot in the NFC North.
Dec 22, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) warms up before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports
Now, we’re entering the 2014 NFL season. Christian Ponder is a mere afterthought in a quarterback competition that involves another first round draft pick in Teddy Bridgewater and a veteran in Matt Cassel. Although the coaching staff says that it is an open competition for quarterback, the impression is that Ponder is not a viable contender to be the Minnesota Vikings starter.
A big question is: Does Christian Ponder deserve to be left out?
Could a new coaching staff help realize his potential? Could a real mentor in Matt Cassel help him develop? If the team gave him full support instead of competition and threats of being replaced, could Ponder find his confidence?
So, what do you think? Has Christian Ponder gotten a fair shake with the Minnesota Vikings since he was drafted? Does he deserve another shot or has it been proven that he is not a starting caliber quarterback? Let me know in the comments.