It's a win-win deal if McNabb plays while Ponder learns

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 27, 2011 - 11:15 PM

Look at the cases of Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers, and bringing in Donovan McNabb to start for this season and perhaps next will give Christian Ponder a much better chance to avoid failure.


49ers quarterback Alex Smith

Photo: Rick Havner, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The first round of the 2005 NFL draft progressed past the halfway mark and ESPN started to focus its attention on the highly rated player making a free fall.

The victim on this occasion was Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback from California.

There had been weeks of speculation as to whether San Francisco would use the No. 1 selection on Rodgers or Utah's Alex Smith to take a shot at the most daunting job in professional sports:

Franchise Quarterback.

The 49ers went with Smith. Rodgers went tumbling downward until Ted Thompson, the Green Bay football boss, decided he could not pass at No. 24.

This was not a positive development financially for Rodgers. He received a five-year contract that included roughly $5 million in guaranteed money. Smith signed a six-year contract with $24 million guaranteed.

Smith was starting for a bad 49ers team by the fifth game of the 2005 season. It was a 28-3 loss to Indianapolis in which he put up a passer rating of 8.5.

He had a season of some promise in 2006, and then a combination of ineptitude and injury turned him into the whipping boy for 49ers fans. Fired coach Mike Nolan would later say that a major regret was not going to Shaun Hill (over Smith) earlier in the 2007 season.

Smith missed 2008 because of a shoulder injury, then was 8-12 in 20 games as a starter the past two seasons. On Tuesday, he agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal to return to the 49ers.

There are several categories for failed quarterbacks who went extra-high in the draft. There are those who didn't care (JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf) and those who couldn't play (Joey Harrington and Tim Couch), and there are more who were ruined by being forced to play much too soon.

David Carr was one of those; some talent, but quickly battered into submission by opposing defenses and mounting criticism.

Smith appears to be a similar casualty. And it should leave Rodgers, as he opens practice this week with the defending Super Bowl champions, to look westward to that Golden Gate and say:

"There but for the grace of the NFL Draft go I."

Rodgers didn't have to play for three years with the Packers. He threw only 59 passes in relief of Brett Favre in those first three seasons. This was the same period in which Smith was earning the disdain of his coaches and the wrath of 49ers followers.

You would've had to be a wild-eyed Packers optimist to look at Rodgers during his brief play (or exhibitions) from 2005 through '07 and say, "Boy, this guy deserves a chance to play."

I'm guessing that Rodgers -- if he had been forced to play every game in his second season with a bad team -- wouldn't have equaled Smith's 2006 numbers in San Francisco: 257 of 442 (58.1 percent), 2,890 yards, 16 TDs and 16 interceptions.

The Packers didn't have to push Rodgers into the lineup, which means he didn't have to fail miserably. By 2008, he was ready to play, and the Packers could stop the annual pleading with Favre to return.

That lack of pleading hurt the Grey Ego's feelings, of course, and he harrumphed off to the Jets, and then the Vikings. Meanwhile, Green Bay was completing its measured development of Rodgers with a Super Bowl title.

The Packers showed their belief in Rodgers in the middle of his first season as a starter in 2008:

They ripped up the original contract and gave him a six-year deal through 2014. There was $20 million guaranteed and an annual salary of $11 million -- meaning his bank account continues to gain on Alex Smith's.

Rodgers is 27 and at this moment you would take him over any quarterback in the NFL. Smith is 27 and this is his last shot to establish himself as a quality quarterback.

Some folks in Purple Land are suggesting the Vikings' decision to trade for veteran Donovan McNabb will hinder the development of Christian Ponder, the alleged quarterback of the future.

Look at the cases of Smith and Aaron Rodgers, and bringing in McNabb to start for this season and perhaps next will give Ponder a much better chance to avoid failure and eventually fill that imposing task:

Franchise Quarterback.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. •

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Washington 102 FINAL
New York 91
Oklahoma City 114 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Cleveland 91 FINAL
Miami 101
LA Lakers 80 4th Qtr 8:58
Chicago 92
Golden State 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
DePaul 69 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 72
Ohio 58 FINAL
Nebraska 71
Colorado 66 FINAL
Hawaii 69
George Washington 30 2nd Half 17:18
Wichita State 31
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters



Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question