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His flaws aside, Christian Ponder played well enough in Sunday's tie, particularly in the eyes of Leslie Frazier, to earn another start in Minnesota's next game at home against Chicago. That will be the Vikings' 12th game of the season. With just four more to go after that, it's safe to assume the noble Josh Freeman Experiment, whatever it once was, has taken on a much different course. At one point, we figured it would be a major shock if Ponder started again; now we would consider it an upset if Freeman does.
As such, we have to start asking this question: when considering smallest return on investment for major Twin Cities athletes, how high does Freeman rank?
Backup QBs are a necessity in the NFL, but this was a different circumstance. The Vikings already had a backup QB in Matt Cassel. They brought Freeman in as a luxury, presumably to kick the tires and see if they could light his fire. He started one game, was abysmal, was still slated to start the next game, then was diagnosed with a concussion. Now he's healthy enough to play but hasn't seen the light of day. The Vikings reportedly gave him $3 million for this season.
How does that chunk of change for a QB not serving as a backup who has played one game compare to ...
*The Twins signing Tsuyoshi Nishioka for a total of $14.5 million (including posting fee). Granted, a little over $3 million came back to them when he walked away from the final year of his contract. But still ...
*The injury-plagued Micheal Williams, who made more than $9 million in his final four seasons with the Timberwolves while playing a total of 37 games in that span.
Feel free to explore some other examples in the comments.
A tie might have been the worst possible outcome for the Vikings on Sunday if you want to look at it like this: they didn't get the satisfaction of beating the Packers, but they still damaged their prospects of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft -- "falling" half a game ahead of the three-team sandwich at 2-9 and leaving themselves in the No. 4 spot.
While that was perfectly Vikings-esque, maybe -- just maybe -- that will end up being a blessing in disguise. We're guessing that at least two teams will finish with worse records than Minnesota (even though the Vikings are perfectly capable of losing the rest of their games, we imagine they have one, maybe two victories left in them). It will leave them just out of range of the consensus top QBs in the draft Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater.
Good. We don't want those guys.
We want Johnny Manziel, the Brett Favre clone.
We want his swagger, we want his big arm and we want his playmaking ability. We want him to inject life into this listless group. We want an instant jolt of adrenaline.
Manziel had his worst game of the season Saturday. No matter. He's still equipped to be the long-term answer. Maybe the Vikings, by virtue of that tie, will have no choice but to take him.
We've written this before, and we'll write again now: Without Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers are essentially the Minnesota Vikings.
We had plenty of evidence before, but the point could not have been driven home more beautifully than it was Sunday, with the rarest of NFL rarities: the tie.
Both teams leaned heavily on the run game Sunday, with the two best players on the field offensively being Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy.
Both teams have flawed defenses that are capable of giving up huge chunks of yards at any given moment.
Both teams had quarterbacks who made plays and kept them in the game -- just not enough plays to win the game when it mattered most. Christian Ponder and the relieving Matt Flynn, in fact, both had numerous chances with the ball in their hands to win the game. Ponder couldn't make a couple of first downs to seal the game. Flynn and the Packers settled for a field goal to tie late. Ponder couldn't do anything in a hurry-up drive at the end of regulation. Flynn misfired on a third-and-goal pass in overtime, as the Packers settled for a field goal. Ponder and the Vikings marched back down but had to settle for the same.
It was a stark reminder of just how important great QB play is in the NFL. If Rodgers would have played Sunday, there is no chance the Packers fall behind, and there is no chance they lose. End of story.
If there is some solace for Vikings fans, it is this: the purple kept the Packers from creeping back into a tie in the NFC North on a day the Lions and Bears lost. At the end of the year, a tie can be as good as a win or as bad as a loss. We'll see which it is for Green Bay.
Speaking of the QB of the future ... the Vikings with a loss would have moved into a four-way tie for the worst record in the NFL -- and likely would have held the tiebreaker for the No. 1 pick based on this. Instead, they sit in 4th place in the draft order at 2-8-1, and they didn't even get the satisfaction of a victory.
Classic Vikings, even as they remind us of the Packers and vice-versa.
Born out of a series of Tweets by commenter @RandBallsStu, an idea by your humble proprietor and a sick thirst to rile up Packers fans for no good reason, we present, "The Increasingly Lost Season." In this series, which is now in its second year, Stu will give a brief recap of the Packers' misfortunes as they tumble back toward Randy Wright-esque putridity (even if that probably isn't true). Stu?
What happens when two bitter NFC North rivals face off, even when one is a flat-out disgrace and the other is sticking with a struggling Christian Ponder? In an increasingly lost season, the answer is “the same old same old.”
As predicted in this space last week, the Packers were once again unable to defeat Eli Manning when it mattered and saw their season continue to fall apart. Although NFL rules prohibit the questioning of any of Dear Leader Ted Thompson’s wise and capable decisions for the greater good, the ongoing embarrassment of having zero competent backups to actor/quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to be apparent to those who dare engage in Thoughtcrime.
Now, they have another week of starting “quarterback” Scott Tolzien as Rodgers heals and lines up voiceover work, and get to play another team heading in the wrong direction, the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, unlike Green Bay, Minnesota seems to have come to terms with its bitterly disappointing 2013, and is focused on building for a better, brighter future. The Packers and some in their misguided fan base think that, just because they’re not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, means they are in the hunt for another division title. “After all, Aaron’s coming back,” they might say.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he’s not coming back. Hollywood is his pack of cigarettes, and Green Bay is his abandoned family, looking to scrape enough money together to put some dollar store gifts under a tree that’s actually just cases of Old Style returnables stacked in a haphazard, moldering pyramid. Oh, sure, he’ll come back. Keep telling yourself that.
Will they be able to end their losing streak against the injury-riddled Vikings? In an increasingly lost season, the smart money’s on “don’t count on it.”
This should be a grand weekend in border rivalry history, with both the Badgers vs. Gophers and Vikings vs. Packers filling the two-day schedule.
For a refreshing change of pace, the Gophers and Badgers are holding up their end of the bargain (note: this has primarily been the Gophers' fault in past years) as both teams enter Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game at TCF Bank Stadium with 8-2 records.
But the Vikings' game at Daunte's House on Sunday? Well, that's another story. Both teams are stumbling badly because of their QB situations. The Packers are on their third, Scott Tolzien. You might say the Vikings are on their fourth, starting with Christian Ponder, then Matt Cassel, then Josh Freeman and now (still) back to Ponder.
It got us thinking: Will this be the worst QB matchup in the storied history of the Vikings/Packers rivalry?
Let's start with Ponder vs. Tolzien. They are both third-year QBs. Ponder was drafted in the first round. Tolzien was undrafted. And we honestly couldn't tell you which one we'd rather have right now. That is not hyperbole.
Between them, they have 7 TD passes and 14 INTs this season. In the modern NFL, that is just abysmal.
But are they the worst matchup -- the worst duo to start at QB in this series?
Well, the Packers have either had Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre as starting QBs for 20-plus years of matchups before this, so that takes us at least into the early 1990s. The Vikings, starting there and moving backwards, had Rich Gannon, Wade Wilson and Tommy Kramer going back to the late 1970s. Even in the Vikings' leaner years in there (Steve Dils), the Packers countered with the somewhat respectable Lynn Dickey. Dils vs. Dickey is better than Tolzien vs. Ponder.
We found a game from 1977 -- Bob Lee vs. David Whitehurst, a 13-6 Vikings win -- that is at least the equal of Sunday's matchup.
And then we traveled all the way back to 1971 for a matchup that was worse than Ponder/Tolzien: Gary Cuozzo vs. Scott Hunter. The teams combined to COMPLETE 11 passes in the game. The final score? 3-0 Vikings on a fourth-quarter field goal.
That was worse than the matchup Sunday. But it took four decades to find it.