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

Chicago 17 4th Qtr 0:01
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Dallas
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 48 2nd Half 0:40
Texas-El Paso 58
Coastal Carolina 44 2nd Half 16:12
Chattanooga 43
Kansas 45 2nd Half 17:07
Rhode Island 30
Wisconsin 9 1st Half 13:57
Georgetown 13
FIU 12 1st Half 11:36
USC Upstate 13
Long Island 3:00 PM
Stony Brook
San Diego 3:30 PM
Xavier
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
Marquette 7:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Long Beach State 7:30 PM
Western Mich
Stephen F Austin 8:00 PM
Prairie View
UAB 8:30 PM
Florida
Rice 8:30 PM
Mercer
San Jose St 10:00 PM
Washington
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
Memphis
LSU 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
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
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
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
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
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 2nd Half 1:05
San Diego State 63
East Carolina 55 2nd Half 0:44
(22) Syracuse 68
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 12 1st Half 12:16
Washington 15
Wichita State 2 1st Half 15:58
Fla Gulf Coast 6
Wisconsin 3:15 PM
(1) South Carolina
BYU 5:00 PM
BYU-Hawaii
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Montana
Illinois 5:00 PM
(9) Kentucky
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
Central Michigan 7:00 PM
Richmond
Oklahoma 7:15 PM
South Florida
Princeton 7:30 PM
Wake Forest
(19) Oregon State 8:00 PM
Butler

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will the Gophers bring home The Axe?

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