Craig: The Ponder quandary

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 8, 2012 - 6:23 PM

Is he really on the verge of Brees-dom, or is he on the road to Tarvaris-ville? No one really knows.

hide

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder after a loss at Lambeau Field.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has maintained his belief in quarterback Christian Ponder in part because of statistical analysis that suggests Super Bowl MVPs Drew Brees and Eli Manning were at similar stages in their second seasons.

That's fine. After all, it's still too early to definitively say Ponder's career won't take off in that manner.

But for anyone to suggest Ponder's career arc can only go up is to conveniently ignore all the Jason Campbells, Kyle Bollers, Rex Grossmans and, yes, Tarvaris Jacksons who have stood where Ponder stands heading into his 23rd NFL start.

Ponder is 8-14 with a 59.1 career completion percentage heading into Sunday's game against the Bears at Mall of America Field. Jackson was 10-12 with a 57.7 completion percentage heading into his 23rd start. He also was already gone from Minnesota, finally tossed aside after 20 starts over five seasons.

Ponder has thrown 27 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions. Grossman was at 27 and 22 en route to the Super Bowl in 2006.

Coach Leslie Frazier's steadfast defense of Ponder is starting to sound a lot like Bears coach Lovie Smith repeating the words "Rex Grossman is our starting quarterback" ad nauseam in that slow, Texas drawl through the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

"As a coach, if you believe in your guy and what you're doing, it's easy to do," Smith said. "I wouldn't necessarily say you have to defend him, but you have to do that a little bit. If you feel like it gives you the best chance to win and you feel good about that, nothing else really matters."

But after Grossman's 23rd start, he started only eight more games before the Bears finally gave up on the 22nd pick of the 2003 draft.

The Vikings are saying all the right things about believing in Ponder. But the truth is no one knows how the story will end. Or how long it will take to unfold.

"At that position, it varies from guy to guy," Frazier said. "In regards to Christian, we're still in that process where we see some things where he's definitely still getting better from a season ago. We've seen it during the offseason, we've seen it during the season. There are still some areas where we know he has to improve, where he knows he has to improve.

"The clock is still ticking on his improvement and development. We are not at a point where we want to throw in the towel on Christian Ponder. He's going to get better and he's going to play better this Sunday. I really believe that."

Sunday's game essentially is a playoff contest since it's so unlikely that the Vikings (6-6) could make the playoffs at 9-7. So Ponder's 23rd NFL start will be the most important of his career. It also could be the last one of any significance this season since a loss would basically render the final three games as meaningless no-pressure garbage time.

At this point, Ponder is in that danger zone for a young franchise quarterback and the team that drafts him: He's not good enough to trust but not bad enough to give up on.

So today's game is a huge step for Ponder. And much like his eventual career arc, that step could go either way.

  • related content

  • Fourth-and-five

    Saturday December 8, 2012

    • One of these days, reports that Norv Turner will be fired in San Diego will be accurate. This appears to be those days.

  • Mark Craig's Northern Intelligence

    Saturday December 8, 2012

    The Vikings are painfully aware of Brandon Marshall's effect on the present and near future of the Bears. But what Marshall is doing also threatens to rewrite Chicago's receiving history....

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 53 3rd Qtr
Golden State 53
Portland 46 3rd Qtr
LA Clippers 48
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 0 3rd Prd
Colorado 2
Montreal 0 3rd Prd
Anaheim 2
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 2nd Half 0:08
Fresno State 67
Nebraska 50 2nd Half 3:35
Illinois 55
Colorado State 78 2nd Half 1:25
Nevada 59
Boise State 60 2nd Half 6:13
San Jose St 40
San Diego St 28 2nd Half
UNLV 31
Oregon 27 1st Half 1:23
Oregon State 28
UC Santa Barbara 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close