Leslie Frazier stopped at Christian Ponder’s locker for a brief conversation after the Vikings 41-20 loss at Seattle on Sunday.
And what was the coach’s message?
“We just went over what he talked to you guys [media] about,” the quarterback said.
Frazier told reporters moments earlier that he wasn’t sure which of his three quarterbacks will start Sunday’s game at Green Bay. Frazier wanted to discuss the situation with his coaching staff after he removed Ponder in the fourth quarter following his third turnover of the game, an interception returned for a touchdown that gave Seattle a 38-13 lead.
Frazier still wasn’t ready to announce his starter during his Monday news conference. All three quarterbacks — Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman — are healthy enough to play, but 10 games into the season, the Vikings still are publicly uncertain how to proceed.
“Just want to talk that through a little bit and when we come back on Wednesday have a good idea,” Frazier said.
If Frazier settles on Freeman again, all three quarterbacks will have started at least two games. As a group, they are tied for 29th in the NFL with only 10 touchdown passes in 10 games. They’re also ranked 29th in passer rating at 72.5.
It’s hard to envision how Ponder can keep his job given the team’s record (2-8) and his mistakes Sunday. His two interceptions in the fourth quarter turned the game into a runaway, and he has 13 turnovers in seven starts.
Ponder described his miscues as “easily correctable,” but Frazier once again made note of Ponder’s inconsistency after a solid first half.
“You can’t win in this league playing one or two quarters,” Frazier said. “We just need all of our players to play well throughout the game, and he didn’t play as well in that fourth quarter as we needed him to. We needed more consistent play and we didn’t get it. The results of it put us in a tough spot.”
Freeman seems likely to get another chance as the starter now that he has a better grasp of the offense. He had a nightmarish debut against the New York Giants after getting only four days of practice with the first-team offense, completing only 20 of 53 passes with one interception. Fifteen of his 33 incompletions came on overthrows.
Freeman clearly was not ready to run the offense — no matter how limited the game plan — but he has had a month to digest the playbook and become more comfortable with his teammates.
Frazier was asked if there’s something he needs to see from Freeman in practice to get him back on the field.
“Not so much from Josh [but] just try and determine what’s the best thing to do based on where we are and what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Frazier said. “He’s doing everything we’re asking him to do. He’s working hard in practice, he’s preparing properly. We’ll just have to see what’s the best thing to do.”
Cassel, at 31, is viewed more as a backup than quarterback of the future. The Vikings could be in evaluation mode at this point as they search for answers to their quarterback woes.
The organization signed Freeman for more than $2 million in early October and benched Ponder the first time, presumably to evaluate Freeman in order to determine if he’s a possible long-term fit.
But Freeman has been inactive three games since his lone start as the Vikings gave Ponder a second chance. General Manager Rick Spielman said recently that the team conceivably could make a determination on Freeman’s future simply by watching him in practice, which sounds unrealistic.
Ponder’s struggles Sunday provided an opening for the Vikings to elevate Freeman into the starter’s role.
“I have no preconceived notion as far as who’s going to start, who’s going to play,” Freeman said. “Really, it’s a grinder’s mentality. It’s been great coming in and all you worry about is football. It’s allowed me to put my sole focus into football. Not worrying about anything else.”