Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said several times this season, in choosing a starting quarterback, that Christian Ponder gave his team the “best chance to win.”
Frazier acknowledged after a 14-13 victory against Detroit in the season finale Sunday that every quarterback change was a “collective decision” among himself, General Manager Rick Spielman and ownership.
“In this position, when you’re talking about the quarterback position, you don’t make these decisions alone,” Frazier said. “The quarterback position, this is a franchise position. It’s a collective decision. At the end of the day, I’m the head coach, but when it comes to the quarterback, it’s not like inserting an offensive guard or a wide receiver or tight end. That’s a completely different matter, so believe me there were discussions in each one of those situations.”
The Vikings’ quarterback carousel this season prompted questions about who actually had final say on the matter. Ponder started nine games; Matt Cassel started six, including the final four; and Josh Freeman had one disastrous start against the Giants.
Cassel outperformed Ponder, but the team didn’t make him the full-time starter until December.
“When we made those decisions early in the season regarding our quarterback, you’re making decisions based on — in my mind — the short term and the long term,” Frazier said. “When we decided to stay with Christian, there was a reason why we did that at that time. Now in retrospect, you can look back and say, ‘Well, maybe you should have done this.’ But we’ve talked about why we did what we did and if it worked out there would be no second-guessing.”
Frazier reiterated that he discussed every quarterback change with his bosses.
“You don’t want to make decisions regarding the quarterback without ownership and the general manager being involved in some degree,” he said. “You can make suggestions, but they need to sign off on it. This is the franchise. So yeah, we discussed each one of those moves.”
Cassel can opt out of his contract for next season, but he declined to reveal his intentions.
“It’s way too early to think about that, but at the same time, I love playing for the Vikings,” he said. “The fan base here is absolutely amazing. The team was special. It was a great team to play for. I really enjoyed my time with my wife, myself, my kids, a great community and everything else that goes along with it. So, would I love to be a Minnesota Viking? Absolutely, without a doubt.”
The Vikings defense avoided setting a dubious team record. By allowing a season-low 13 points, they finished four points shy of the team record for points allowed in a season — 484 set in 1984.
The Vikings entered the game ranked last in the NFL in points allowed.
“I’m proud to have not given up the most points in Vikings history,” linebacker Chad Greenway joked.
Swan song for buds?
Jared Allen and Kevin Williams were two of the last players to leave the field after the game. They played 97 games together along the defensive line and became close friends over the years. Both of their contracts expire, and it’s likely that both will move on.
“That was the toughest part, I didn’t know what to expect,” Williams said. “I’ve never been in this situation before. Hearing the crowd cheer for you the last time in the Dome, it was a little tough.”
Williams is the Vikings’ oldest (33) and longest-tenured player. He reiterated that he hopes to play two more seasons, either in Minnesota or elsewhere.
He was happy that both he and Allen registered sacks in what looks like their final game together.
“We played our heart out and tried to send the Dome out the right way,” he said.
Stuck on zero
Former second-round pick and free-agent cornerback Chris Cook played perhaps his final game in a Vikings uniform. If so, he played in 34 games (29 starts) and did not collect one interception.
Injuries and legal issues contributed to what Cook described as a “rough” tenure in Minnesota after being drafted 34th overall in 2010.
“I’ve had some adversity come my way, and they’ve definitely stuck by me through everything that I’ve been through here,” Cook said. “I really appreciate that.”
Cook said he’d like to stay with the Vikings, but he declined to speculate about what might happen in free agency.
Asiata gets 115
Matt Asiata made his second career start with Adrian Peterson (foot, groin) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) sidelined. Asiata rushed for 115 yards on 14 carries. He lost one fumble.
Asiata helped put the Vikings in victory formation with a 39-yard run before the two-minute warning.