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


San Diego 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Indiana 6:00 PM
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Dallas 7:00 PM
New Orleans
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Vancouver 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Chicago 7:00 PM
Arizona 7:00 PM
Carolina 8:00 PM
Buffalo 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Columbus 9:30 PM
San Jose
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
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 Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question