Two weeks ago, the biggest question was, simply put, who’s going to be the Vikings’ quarterback?
It went much deeper than that, but at the most important position in sports — see how Brett Favre lifted the Vikings in 2009 — that need dwarfed all other needs Minnesota had entering this offseason.
Now, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman have had to defend their choice of Christian Ponder, raising plenty of concerns, most of which ending in question marks.
Why pick Ponder so high?
What did Frazier and Spielman see in him?
In a recent interview with NFL Network, the first question Frazier was asked was about the quarterback he will inevitably have his young coaching career tethered to from the get go. And Frazier had a laundry list of reasons for liking Ponder: accurate, leadership skills, mobile quarterback, extremely intelligent and as Frazier put it, Ponder has a “great deal of charisma.”
Minnesota may have wanted Jake Locker or Blaine Gabbert more than Ponder, but the Vikings won’t admit that now. As Frazier put it, though, coming out of a pro-style system and in meeting Ponder, the Vikings brass was confident that, of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft, Ponder had the least amount of question marks.
That sounds encouraging.
So does the fact that Ponder has said he is familiar with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s scheme. That’ll help him early on, even with a lockout going on.
That’s all fine and dandy, but all of the superlatives and bologna that gets thrown around at this point in time doesn’t really matter for the Minnesota Vikings. We can poke and prod the selection of Ponder all we want, and I’m sure many of you were pulling out your hair when Roger Goodell announced his name on draft night.
What matters is that the circus is finally over. No more marching in veteran quarterbacks to “bridge” the gap to a more permanent solution.
Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman have their feet planted in wet cement, with Christian Ponder, and it’s about to dry, because the Vikings have finally found their quarterback of the future — or of the near future at least.
Minnesota is committed to the 23-year old Florida State graduate. He was the 12th overall pick in the NFL draft and will have a hefty contract to match — last year’s No. 12 pick Ryan Mathews received a five-year, 25-million-plus dollar deal, with $15 million in guaranteed money.
For the next three or so years, Ponder should have a chance to show he’s the franchise quarterback Minnesota hopes he is.
He has been described as a game manager, a perfect West-Coast-offense quarterback and a guy with that “it” factor. With Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, Kyle Rudolph and maybe Sidney Rice around him, Ponder has a young core of skill players that rivals any group around the league.
He’s the missing piece.
Him and maybe a few offensive linemen.
But now he has finally arrived. All of the talk about where he was picked doesn’t matter anymore. And how he performs on the field is all that does matter.
He just has to win. That may seem tough, but Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez were able to win early in their careers. They didn’t light the league on fire at first, and starting Ponder won’t be pretty, either. All those guys did was win, though.
Josh Freeman, who was considered a project, led Tampa Bay to a 10-win season in 2010. The trend of starting a young quarterback early is all-the-rage in the NFL right now. If you’ve got one, let it rip. Find out sooner rather than later if he’s the guy. You’ll find out, then move forward or move on. Carolina already picked Cam Newton to replace Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy may be the Browns’ own franchise quarterback — both decisions based on Clausen’s and McCoy’s rookie seasons.
Minnesota needs to start Ponder now and forget any notion about delaying the Ponder-era. Bringing in Donovan McNabb or Carson Palmer or Alex Smith isn’t going to change the fact that Ponder was the 12th pick in the draft and will be sitting there waiting. Yes, you want a winning and productive quarterback, no matter who it may be. But if a veteran comes in and wins, then this No. 12 pick could have easily been an impact defensive player that could have boosted a unit needing life at the moment.
Instead it would be the quarterback of the future, holding a clipboard.
Ponder is accurate, smart, he knows the offense to some degree already and he’s got something about him that people like — that sounds good enough to start the guy right now.
We’ve been waiting for this guy since Daunte Culpepper’s knee exploded in 2005.
Mediocrity settled in: Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte. Then Favre showed up.
That list alone is enough motivation to start Ponder right now.
To change everything, and avoid joining that list of skeletons in the Vikings’ closet, he just has to win.
So just give him the chance.