Souhan: Frazier's QB approach may have to yield to Vikings reality

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 10, 2013 - 9:23 AM

The Vikings coach might have to abandon his patient ways if Christian Ponder continues to struggle.

One game into the season that might determine his future as an NFL head coach, Leslie Frazier suddenly finds himself wedged uncomfortably between philosophy and circumstance.

His philosophy dictates that he express patience and confidence in his quarterback. His philosophy dictated that his team draft and develop its own quarterback. His philosophy could endanger his career and the season, if that quarterback continues to play the way he did Sunday.

Circumstance dictates that Frazier treat his philosophy the way most of us treat freshman college Philosophy 101, and forget all about it. Circumstance compels him to treat his quarterback not as an investment to be protected against unpredictable market swings, but as the variable that determines value.

In the last year of his contract, Frazier has a playoff-quality roster, a future Hall of Famer or three in their prime and a big-name free agent whose success is tied to his quarterback. In his first game in this new reality, the quarterback his philosophy led him to choose, and defend, failed him.

To the untethered observer, benching Christian Ponder on Sunday at Detroit, or last November in Green Bay, would be simple. You tell him to take a seat and move on. For Frazier, the decision is complicated by philosophy and history.

Philosophy: Frazier, a man of faith, believes in staying the course, even when the course is filled with potholes. His faith-based decisions led him to retire when he might have been able to continue his NFL career, to coach at upstart Trinity College instead of using NFL contacts to get a more prestigious job, to believe that his good work with the Vikings eventually will be rewarded even though he was denied an extension after taking a previously mediocre team to the playoffs in 2012.

History: Frazier stuck with Ponder during his midseason slump last season, even after he looked hopeless in Green Bay, and was rewarded with four highly competent performances in must-win games down the stretch.

There is another history Frazier might want to consider if Ponder falters again on Sunday: Vikings history.

On Jan. 27, 1999, Randall Cunningham, who had led the Vikings to the NFC title game in 1998, accepted the Miller Lite NFL Player of the Year Award. On Oct. 17, at halftime of the second game of the 1999 season, Vikings coach Denny Green benched Cunningham in favor of veteran backup Jeff George, and George took the Vikings to the playoffs.

After that game, in the dankness of the old Silverdome, I asked Green what prompted his decision. He gave the most succinct and accurate answer of his life: “No points.”

In April of 2006, Brad Childress chose the quarterback he believed would mimic a young Donovan McNabb and lead his team for a decade: Tarvaris Jackson. On Sept. 17, 2008, two games into the season, Childress benched Jackson in favor of veteran backup Gus Frerotte, and he helped the Vikings reach the playoffs. I’d supply a Childress quote on the subject, but it’s still being translated.

Jackson was benched after two games of his third season, and his second season as a starter. Ponder is about to start the second game of his third season, and second season as a starter.

A previous Vikings coach, Jerry Burns, never was afraid to change quarterbacks. He would yearn for someone who could take control of a game and make winning plays “Like Francis” Tarkenton. He’d argue that changing the left guard wouldn’t alter the course of a team; only changing the quarterback could.

Frazier must feel bound by philosophy to support and protect Ponder, so it’s understandable that the coach supported his quarterback on Sunday and Monday.

Five days from now, if Ponder again makes the kind of plays that lose games, Frazier will be better served by studying history, and giving Matt Cassel a chance to become the latest imported veteran quarterback to take the Vikings to the playoffs.

 

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays

at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles 6 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 1
Detroit 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Kansas City 0
Philadelphia - J. Williams 3:05 PM
Oakland - D. Pomeranz
Toronto - M. Stroman 3:05 PM
NY Yankees - C. Capuano
Arizona - T. Cahill 3:10 PM
Colorado - E. Butler
Boston - R. De La Rosa 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Milwaukee - M. Garza 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Washington - J. Zimmermann 6:10 PM
Miami - J. Cosart
NY Mets - J. Niese 6:10 PM
Atlanta - M. Minor
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Cleveland - T. House 6:10 PM
Minnesota - T. May
Seattle - C. Young 6:10 PM
Houston - D. Keuchel
Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Wacha
San Francisco - Y. Petit 7:40 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Texas - C. Lewis 8:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 35 3rd Qtr 7:08
Rice 21
Troy 0 3rd Qtr 0:00
(13) Georgia 52
Georgia Tech 10 3rd Qtr 4:46
Virginia Tech 16
Eastern Mich 7 3rd Qtr 4:30
(11) Michigan State 56
Iowa 17 4th Qtr
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 10 3rd Qtr 12:29
(19) Wisconsin 48
Maryland 31 3rd Qtr
Syracuse 13
Tulane 7 3rd Qtr
Duke 19
Hawaii 0 1st Qtr 7:31
Colorado 0
Marshall 7 1st Qtr 9:19
Akron 0
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 4:00 PM
Portland
Houston 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
New England 6:30 PM
Columbus
San Jose 6:30 PM
Montreal
Seattle 6:30 PM
Red Bull New York
D.C. 7:30 PM
Chicago
FC Dallas 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close