The Vikings just can’t seem to put it all together.
No matter how good Minnesota has been in recent years, no matter how promising our chances have seemed, there has always been one key piece missing from the puzzle: a strong secondary, a competent head coach, a functional quarterback.
Right now, the Vikings are very much without the latter, but we’ve been here before, haven’t we? And to be honest, it’s getting old.
Let’s revisit our unfortunate history. Despite his perpetually inconsistent play in the late 2000s, Tarvaris Jackson was trotted out onto the field game after game by former head coach Brad Childress, much to the shagrin of the Purple faithful clamoring for a deserved quarterback change.
Jackson, who was tauted as the second coming of Donovan McNabb by Childress after he was drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft, consistently disappointed fans with his questionable decision making, inaccurate throws and lack of poise in the pocket.
Brett Favre provided an influx of welcomed quality at the quarterback position in 2009, showing the rest of the league how dangerous the Vikings can be with a competent field general in the huddle. But that success was short lived, and after Favre faded out, the Vikings were left with the underachieving Jackson as their only viable option at quarterback, who despite his two-year tutelage under Favre continued to fall short of his once high expectations.
So with no Favre and Jackson finally out of the picture following his release in 2010, Minnesota needed to find its signal caller of the future. Enter Christian Ponder, who was selected 12th overall by the Vikings in the 2011 draft, much sooner than most experts predicted he would go.
Following the failed experiment that was Donovan McNabb, Ponder was given his chance as a rookie, an early test which produced mixed results.
In 11 games, Ponder amassed 1,853 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 53.7 completion percentage. Average numbers, but respectable for a rookie quarterback. At that point, it was too early to judge his potential with only a handful of NFL starts under his belt.
At least that’s what I thought.
Don’t think I’ve been a Ponder hater since the beginning. In fact, I was one of his most staunch defenders, even after his worst games last year, even until the beginning of the 2013 season.
But no more. I’m sick of pretending that this guy has what it takes to be an NFL quarterback, because at the end of the day, he just isn’t good enough. Bottom line.
There will be some who say he still has potential, that we should continue to give him the opportunity to prove himself, but how many more games, how many more seasons can we give Ponder to underachieve while Adrian Peterson enjoys the best years of his career? I say no more.
Page 2 of 2 - Quarterbacks in this league dream of throwing against the looks that Ponder gets. He has the best running back in the league behind him, forcing defenses into man-coverage situations, yet Ponder can’t hit anyone besides Kyle Rudolph or John Carlson in the flat, evidenced by his Week 1 performance in Detroit.
While facing eight men in the box, Ponder completed 50 percent of his passes, threw no touchdowns, two interceptions and registered an abysmal 0.6 QBR against the Lions. The rest of the league against that look: 63.9 percent completion percentage, 5 touchdowns, no interceptions, 51.1 QBR.
Not good enough, Christian. Not by a long shot.
Others will blame the Minnesota offensive line for Ponder’s failure, that Ponder makes bad throws because he isn’t given enough time to make any good ones. But consider this: The reason that our offensive line keeps getting crashed with blitzes is because opposing defenses don’t even bother with pass coverage when No. 7 drops back in the pocket. And if Ponder even feels a little pressure, he gets happy feet and either gets sacked, tries to run (which he gets away with sometimes) or throws a horrendous pass.
I admit, he has his flashes. We likely wouldn’t have made the playoffs without his three-touchdown, Week 17 performance against the Packers last season. But he just doesn’t have the talent to make it in this league.
Head coach Leslie Frazier continues to to stand by his quarterback after the team’s 0-2 start, but with Matt Cassell waiting in the wings, it would be in his best interest to make the switch sooner rather than later. Because if this season is lost early on because of Ponder’s poor quarterback play, Frazier will be in just as much danger of losing his job as Ponder will be.
Cut your losses, Leslie. You can’t afford to let things get out of hand.
This is the opinion of Joe Mellenbruch, a Devils Lake Journal reporter, who can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Journal_Joe.