The 2013 Vikings are coming off a 10-6 season in which they were a surprising entry in the NFC playoffs. There are expectations for another winning season and trip to the playoffs. With quarterback Christian Ponder entering his third season, Matt Cassel was brought in as a veteran backup.
The 2008 Vikings were coming off an 8-8 season in which they still had a chance to reach the playoffs entering the final weekend. There were expectations for a winning season and a trip to the playoffs. With quarterback Tarvaris Jackson entering his third season, Gus Frerotte was brought in as a veteran backup.
Les Frazier enters his third full season as Vikings' coach and without a contract beyond 2013. Brad Childress was in his third year of a five-year contract with the Vikings in 2008, but he was taking heat from the fans and the stadium-seeking owners were very aware of public opinion.
Ponder was the quarterback for a four-game winning streak at the end of the 2012 schedule to give the Vikings an unexpected playoff date in Green Bay. When he came up hurt for that game, Joe Webb played miserably and the Vikings couldn't muster a passing game to challenge the Packers.
In the aftermath of that, you heard from the Vikings and their fans that it could have been a competitive game in Lambeau Field that night, with a healthy Ponder.
The optimism over Ponder's finish to the regular season seemed to fade during the offseason. The endless analysis and numbers available put Ponder in the bottom tier of NFL's starters. And when the first-team offense looked largely ineffective in its sporadic appearances during the exhibitions, you weren't hearing much positive on the quarterback -- as the season opener approached.
Five years ago, the attitude toward Jackson might have been a tad more positive. As a rookie in 2006, there were many fans on the "T-Jack'' bandwagon ... until they actually had a chance to see him play on a cold night in Green Bay late in the season.
And then in 2007, he started 12 of the 16 games, and his best was the last in Denver -- a dynamic second half that took the Vikings into overtime. The locals won't admit it today, but there was some faith that Jackson could be workable as the quarterback entering the 2008 season.
The season opened with a 24-19 loss at Green Bay on a Monday night... in which Aaron Rodgers was making his first start for the Packers. Jackson went 16 for 35 for 178 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
The Vikings had better personnel than the rebuilding Packers that night. Jackson's failure to make plays when he had a chance was the difference.
The next game was the home opener vs. Indianapolis. The Vikings had a spectacular defensive effort against Peyton Manning in the first half. Then, Jackson couldn't make a play of note in the second half and the Vikings lost 18-15. T-Jack went 14 for 24 for 130 yards, without a touchdown or interception.
The Vikings were 0-2. The heat was building. And Childress went from being Jackson's No. 1 advocate to announcing on Wednesday that Frerotte was being elevated to the starting quarterback -- not for the next game but for the forseeable future.
"I'm just not seeing right now the aggressiveness from Tarvaris that I saw throughout the offseason, training camp, the two preseason games that he played in,'' Childress said. "Part of it may be experience. I know Gus will give us that.''
Jackson's response was: "This league is a business. That's one thing I've learned. You never know what might happen. My job is to go out there and try to win games. Obviously, we're 0-2, so [Childress] felt like he did what's best for the team. That's it.''
On Sunday, the 2013 season started with a 34-24 loss in Detroit. The defense was horrid against the Lions. If not for Detroit maintaining its tradition of being able to screw up a one-car parade, the winners would've been in the 40s against a Purple defense that was weak on the line and MIA at linebacker.
And yet the reaction from the media and the fans was that this loss belonged to Ponder. Certainly, he was as unsure of himself to start his third season as was Jackson five years earlier in Lambeau Field.
Childress was unwilling to see that season of expectations go down the drain due to poor quarterback play. After two losses, he dropped the young QB who wasn't doing the job in favor of Frerotte,
Let me predict right now that, if the Vikings lose in Chicago next Sunday and Ponder's poor play is a primary reason, Frazier will do the same ... and Cassel will be the starter for the home opener on Sept. 22 vs. Cleveland.
Childress had personnel power and was joined at hip with Jackson, but he wasn't going to ruin a season out of loyalty. Frazier and his boss, GM Rickm Spielman, won't ruin this one ... even if Ponder was drafted at 12th overall in 2011 to be the long-term starter.
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