Christian, it's time to pass, not ponder
Perhaps someone should have told Christian Ponder two years ago that Viking football fans are only so forgiving.
After looking pretty fair in helping his team to a 4-1 start, Ponder has been showing signs lately of being unable to do his share of the work. He may have hit his zero point last Sunday in a 30-20 loss to Seattle. A quarterback's job is to move the offense, and he was clearly not the right guy for the job in Seattle. Head Coach Leslie Frazier missed a chance to give the whole team a kick where they needed it when he opted to keep an injured Ponder on the field instead of bringing in a healthy Joe Webb.
The first half was dominated by Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. The former Oklahoma star rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikes were within three points of Seattle at the half. The last two quarters were a nightmare for Ponder and the offense. The Seahawks finished the game with four sacks, and they knocked Minnesota's No. 1 receiver, Percy Harvin, out of the game in the second half. Ponder's longest completion in the game was a 14-yard pass to Jerome Simpson.
Following the game, Frazier admitted there are times when Ponder has been too impatient, when it would have been better to wait that extra second for a receiver to beat his coverage.
It would also be a good idea to run over a few people.
Once upon a time, the Vikings were quarterbacked by a guy named Joe Kapp. He did not have a Ph.D., but he wanted to win, and he was tough enough to get the job done.
Fran Tarkenton was no bruiser, but he would do just about anything to beat you. Toward the end of his career, he threw pass from midfield against Washington that was picked off in the end zone. The Vikings gave the ball up on the turnover, but they were also 30 yards closer to Washington's end zone.
Brett Favre was a Tarkenton type. He loved the game and did not care about looks. Many of the records he broke during his career once belonged to Tarkenton. None of these former Viking quarterbacks would have dithered around like Ponder did in Seattle.
Ponder looked good at the beginning of the season. He came up with strong quarterback ratings in both the Jacksonville and Indianapolis games, then he was part of a three-game winning string that saw the Vikes upset San Francisco and Detroit, and handle Tennessee fairly easily. Now it looks like nothing but window dressing. Ponder has thrown six touchdowns and eight interceptions in Minnesota's last five games. He has also been sacked 15 times.
No one would deny he was up against one of the NFL's best defensive units Sunday, but when you are the starting quarterback, you have to execute. If your line is leaking, you roll out and give yourself more time to throw. If a guy has run for 144 yards in two quarters, you keep giving him the football.
The Vikings did not have to pick Ponder in the first round of the 2011 draft. They drafted him and then brought in Donovan McNabb, an old gunslinger, to run the team. Plenty of fans thought it would have made more sense to use their first round pick in the 2011 draft on a defensive tackle, cornerback or wide receiver.
Ponder stood on the sidelines for the first five games of his rookie season and took over when McNabb was jettisoned. His gutsy performance against Green Bay in his NFL debut earned him a lot of fans. Then reality put its foot in the door, and when the season ended, Ponder's stats were nothing to write home about - 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Oh yes, he was also sacked 30 times.
The Vikes went into the 2012 draft with the third pick in the first round, and there were plenty of fans who were promoting quarterback Robert Griffin III instead of offensive tackle Matt Kalil. The Vikings decided to give Ponder a longer look and made the sound, if unspectacular decision, to grab Kalil.
Ponder was handed the starting job when camp opened this summer. After nine games, it is clear the Vikings have seen some aspects to his game that they like. He has good size, he can run with the ball if he has to and he is supposed to be fairly intelligent. It usually takes a while to become a great quarterback, but right now a lot of Minnesota fans are wondering if he can even be a good one.