Complete Frazier interview, Part 2: Working with Christian Ponder

  • Updated: November 18, 2012 - 10:01 AM
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Christian Ponder and Leslie Frazier in Indianapolis earlier this season.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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Coming into this season, you turn the huddle over to a 24-year-old quarterback [Christian Ponder] with 10 NFL starts to his name. Nobody of sane mind thinks he’s going to be Joe Montana for 16 games. We know the dips and slumps are coming. How as a head coach do you prepare yourself for the reality that, ‘OK, there are going to be some rough weeks and patience is going to be key to make sure don’t panic when the quarterback hits some of those valleys’?
 
Frazier: I think experience helps me a lot. Being around it for such a long time and seeing the peaks and valleys that young quarterbacks go through. Both coaching against young quarterbacks and being around young quarterbacks and then veteran quarterbacks who have succeeded. Going in knowing there were going to be moments where Christian would struggle, I always believed that we had to do some extra things around him to help him. Because there are going to be days where he’s not going to be on point. He’s not going to have his A-game. So the greatest challenge I’ve had is with our staff and with our players to make them realize that this is a team game. It’s not about one player. Even though they may hear people criticizing the quarterback, we can do some things around him to help him and support him. And if they understand that component of it, then they’ll never just point the finger at him and say this is all about him. It’s about us. We’ve got to do some things to help every position. And I think our guys understand that and have bought into that.
 
How do you get Christian to buy into that, that patience? He admits he can be wired like a perfectionist and when he starts struggling, he gets to striving harder. And sometimes you can strive too hard and think you’re the reason for all the struggle? How do you convey to him that he needs to take a deep breath here and there?
 
Frazier: I’ve brought him in my office. We talked after the Tampa game. We talked again after the Seattle game on the field. And I always remind him – I reminded him after the Seattle game – that he’s our quarterback. You’re going to have some tough days sometimes. I’ve seen Peyton [Manning] have some tough days. I’ve seen Joe Montana have tough days. Stuff happens, man. You have to be able to block it out and get ready for the next game and have a good practice and things will get better. So I try to encourage him and let him know up front that even though you may hear different people saying things, until you hear me come over and say, ‘Christian, you’re not the guy or whatever, block that stuff out.’ I reminded him that when we drafted him in April of 2011, I told him this. I said, ‘Remember, you sat here in my office after we brought you in town and did our press conference, I told you you were going to be the guy who leads us to a championship in Minnesota? That hasn’t changed. Your mind can’t ever get off of that. You have to keep working towards that. Don’t let anybody outside ever tell you anything different. You’re going to be the guy to do it. To his credit, I think he listens to that. I think he believes that. At the same time, we all have to support him and realize that he’s a young quarterback in the National Football League and there are going to be some tough days at times. But you just have to be able to see the bigger picture. As a head coach, if I’m panicking, if I’m worried, that’s going to seep through to him and the rest of our team. That’s not going to happen with me. Because I know he’s capable of leading us to big things.
 
 
With some of these rough days, you said you could see things within the offense that needed tweaking and changing? As you went back and did some of the film review and self-scouting, how did you diagnose that things had become a little too predictable?
 
Frazier: You look at those games, the Tampa game and the Seattle game. I knew Arizona would give us a bit of a tough time. They have a very good defense and some of the things they do schematically I thought might give us some trouble. And it did. But in the Tampa and Seattle games, there were definitely some things there that I thought we should have been able to exploit in their defenses. When we weren’t doing it and they way they played us, the more I looked at it and said, ‘Ya know, people have a pretty good bead on the way we’re doing some things.’ I knew there were some things we should have been able to exploit. So we sat down as an offensive staff and went through some things about how we had to adjust for Detroit and what we needed to do to help our young quarterback, help our receivers, help our protection. We examined a bunch of different things to make sure we came up with a good game plan to help us have success. Especially knowing we weren’t going to have Percy. So it’s a credit to our coaching staff looking internally and saying, ‘Yeah, we’ve had success early in the season doing it a certain way. But we kind of need to reinvent ourselves here as we get ready for Detroit.’ Because they had won three out of four, were playing with a lot of confidence, coming off a big win against Jacksonville. So our coaches did a good job putting together a plan that was a little bit out of the box. For example, the way we opened the game with an empty formation and ran that play. Things like that. So rather than being stubborn and saying, ‘Well, against San Francisco we did this and won. Or the first time we played Detroit, we did this and were successful. Why can’t we do it now?’ They realized we needed to adjust and we did.
 
 
What specifically wasn’t being exploited against Tampa Bay and Seattle?
Frazier: The passing game. They played us with so much single-high [coverage] for us not to be more successful. You say, ‘Wait a minute now. As an offense, this is what you dream for. Defenses are bringing all these guys into the box to stop Adrian. We’ve got to be able to take advantage of this.’ So we had to look at exactly what were doing and why weren’t having more success. And I think we have to continue that going forward. Because I doubt defenses are going to completely change the ways they try to defend us with the season Adrian is having. So we have to be constantly evolving without setting ourselves back by trying to be too creative and making our guys slow down. I just saw those things that we should have been able to exploit but weren’t.
 
 
 
And there was a recognition on your part that there were a lot of moving parts to that – quarterback play, routes, protection.
 
Frazier: All of the above. It was a combination of a lot of things. So we went back and did some things formation wise, personnel-wise. And with personnel, it was who we were putting on the field – whether that was three wide receivers, two receivers and two backs. Whatever. Just looking at things we could do to help our players be successful. Moving our receivers around, moving the ball to different guys, simplifying protections. Those were things we needed to do to help our passing game.
 
 

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 14 2nd Qtr 14:56
Dallas 7
Seattle 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Nashville
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 48 2nd Half 9:31
Georgetown 55
FIU 34 2nd Half 7:04
USC Upstate 50
Long Island 31 2nd Half 15:59
Stony Brook 45
San Diego 24 1st Half 3:02
Xavier 32
Illinois 4:00 PM
Indiana State
Western Ky 5:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Cal State Fullerton 5:00 PM
Wright State
Michigan State 5:30 PM
Rider
UCLA 6:00 PM
North Carolina
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UAB 8:30 PM
Florida
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Mercer
San Jose St 10:00 PM
Washington
Washington St 10:59 PM
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Baylor 10:59 PM
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LSU 6:30 PM
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(6) TCU 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
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(19) Marshall
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So Florida
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SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
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Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
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Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 58 2nd Half 3:13
Washington 70
Wichita State 30 2nd Half 4:36
Fla Gulf Coast 53
Wisconsin 18 2nd Half
(1) South Carolina 31
BYU 5:00 PM
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Charlotte 5:00 PM
Montana
Illinois 5:00 PM
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Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
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Oklahoma 7:15 PM
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Princeton 7:30 PM
Wake Forest
(19) Oregon State 8:00 PM
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