Joe Webb was perfect in relief of Christian Ponder (concussion), earning a 158.3 passer rating against Washington.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Webb's minutes of fame

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • December 29, 2011 - 10:55 AM

Give Joe Webb credit. Not too many NFL quarterbacks would be this understanding while being sent back to the bench four days after posting 23 points in a 26-minute relief appearance.

They wouldn't smile as they jogged to their gadgety receiver position at the start of a mid-week practice. Nor would they be so willing to stand in the locker room afterward and offer public support to the rookie starter they've been outplaying the past month.

But that's part of Webb's charm, his appeal inside the Vikings' locker room. That, and his ability to run wild, throw better than Tim Tebow and bring pep to an offense that can use a double shot of Mountain Dew every now and again.

"Just doing my job, just what a professional needs to do," Webb said. "I can't control the decisions the coaches make. I can only control what I do on the field. If I continue to be successful on the field, something positive will come out of it."

Yes, the kid is a walking, talking cliché machine. He's got a million more just like the ones above. But the 24-year-old is either genuine or he's the Al Pacino and Morgan Freeman of his generation.

Coach Leslie Frazier has had to do a lot of thinking and talking about Webb the past month. The good kind.

Three weeks ago, Webb came off the bench at Detroit after Ponder had turned the ball over four times. In 23 minutes, he ran for 109 yards and a touchdown, threw for 84 yards and a touchdown, and rallied the Vikings from a 31-14 deficit to within 1 yard of an upset.

At Washington on Saturday, Ponder suffered a concussion with the score tied 10-10. Enter SuperJoe, who ran for 34 yards and a touchdown, passed for 84 yards and two touchdowns, and ended a six-game losing streak with four consecutive scoring drives. The 33-26 victory actually goes on Ponder's won-loss record (2-7), not that Webb seems to care who gets the credit.

"Thank God Christian is healthy," said Webb, referring to the fact Ponder was cleared to begin practicing on Wednesday and will start Sunday's game against the Bears at Mall of America Field.

"I just want to continue to be his support. To be his eyes on the field, to continue to give him advice when he comes to the sideline and just try to come out and get this win."

Not too many NFL quarterbacks would be saying that while heading back to the bench four days after reaching passer rating perfection (158.3) on five passes.

The Vikings want to remain committed to Ponder. He is, after all, a 12th overall draft pick. But Webb obviously is causing some confusion because he wasn't supposed to show this much promise as the 199th pick a year ago.

After Saturday's game, Frazier said the team would have to "take a real hard look" in the offseason at whether Webb has earned a shot to compete for the starting job in 2012. Wednesday, Frazier said Ponder is the starting quarterback, barring injury, and that the coaches need to work harder to incorporate Webb's athleticism into the team's "Blazer" package. But Frazier again left the door cracked for a possible QB competition next summer.

"I think you always want to do whatever gives your team the best chance to win," Frazier said. "Right now, Christian being our starting quarterback, that's our belief. But you always want to try to figure out what gives your team the best chance to win, period, and not let some other circumstances or events dictate who's in the starting lineup."

By the way, if the Vikings don't win Sunday, they'd be 0-6 in the NFC North, the first time in the 51-year history of the franchise that they'd finish winless within their division. Even the 1984 team that finished 3-13 went 2-6 within the NFC Central. Or, as Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen put it, "The fact we haven't won a division game makes you want to throw up."

At this point, one has to wonder if Webb would be starting if Sunday's game wasn't so, well, meaningless. But even as the backup, Webb said he feels like he's competing for a job. He makes a good point, considering he started the year at No. 3 and jumped over the now-dumped Donovan McNabb.

"When something like this happens, you just have to be positive about it," he said. "You can't sit down and mope around and let your teammates see you down. Continue to work hard and good things will come."

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