Sid Hartman: Frazier says rookie gives Vikings best chance

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 23, 2011 - 1:15 AM

Leslie Frazier says the Vikings need a spark to get their season on track, and he believes Christian Ponder can be just that.


Coach Leslie Frazier walked off the field a winner the last time the Vikings played at home, and he is hoping that he can do that again against the Packers — and he believes Christian Ponder is the right quarterback to accomplish that goal.

Photo: Mckenna Ewen, Star Tribune

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One of the big reasons why Leslie Frazier benched Donovan McNabb in favor of Christian Ponder is that the Vikings coach said he believed his team had a chance to beat the unbeaten Packers with its first-round draft choice starting at quarterback.

Frazier said it wasn't a hard decision to switch quarterbacks.

"Just looking at our team and seeing where we were, and what we were trying to get accomplished this year, it wasn't as tough as it seems," Frazier said. "When you're 1-5, you're looking at different things that might get your season on track. I thought this was one of those things that might help us get on track.

"[Ponder] has real good poise, shows real good knowledge of our offense. When he got in that game Sunday night, I just didn't feel like the game was too big for him. I thought he really got in a rhythm, showed great composure, showed some leadership ability."

Frazier said he had seen Ponder perform in practice similar to the way he did against the Bears, adding, "Then to see that in that game against their first-team defense, I said, 'You know what, I think it's time.'

"I thought about some different scenarios; when is the right time to do it? I just felt like for where our team is and the fact that I think we have a chance to win this game, and if I didn't make this change now, I don't think I was giving our team the best chance to win. That was what the decision was based on."

Frazier described Ponder "as a guy who is very bright, works extremely hard, and prepares very well. He has the arm strength, the mobility, a lot of the things that you look for in a quarterback, why we drafted him in the first round. Now he has to gain some experience, and that starts this Sunday."

Viking offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was asked about the change from the veteran McNabb to the rookie Ponder.

"Well, Leslie made the decision and we've all gone in full-go with it, of course," Musgrave said. "I thought Donovan did some good things. Our entire offense, we've not been good enough to have the record that we desire. We're looking for improvement here over the next 10 games, starting with Sunday afternoon."

Must have short memory

Frazier still can't figure out how the Vikings performed so poorly against the Bears.

"It was hard to swallow," he said. "But I also know that in our league you have to put those games behind you, you can't let them linger because you have to get ready for your next opponent."

Frazier then recalled a game in 2006, a 44-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars when he was with the Indianapolis Colts working for Tony Dungy.

"They ran the football up and down the field on us, and they beat up Peyton Manning, hitting him and making plays against our team," Frazier said of the Jaguars. "It was in the month of December and everyone was kind of bummed out about the game.

"Then Tony came in that Monday and he said, 'That game is over. We're not going to panic. We're going to stay the course and this is how we're going to fix the problem.' We went on and won the Super Bowl that year. I know you don't want to overreact if you have the right people. You just have to analyze why did this happen, and try to fix it."

Well, the Vikings don't have Peyton Manning or the personnel the Colts had that year, but Frazier and the coaching staff believe their players will react positively to the Bears loss and play their best Sunday against a Packers team that is unbeaten and a heavy favorite on the road.

Gophers had no chance

The Gophers team that lost 41-14 to Nebraska on Saturday would not have defeated the 13th-ranked Cornhuskers even if it had played a perfect game.

The Gophers don't have talent to win any big games, and Tim Brewster is fortunate that he got fired in the middle of last season and didn't have to coach this great group of talent that he and his staff recruited.

But coach Jerry Kill agreed that one of the big problems this team has is it makes one mistake after another.

What happened Saturday is the type of thing that has happened all season. Just look at the opening sequence.

The opening kickoff was fumbled in the end zone, limiting the return to 11 yards; when that opening drive stalled, the Gophers had a poor 23-yard punt that gave the Huskers the ball at midfield; the Gophers jumped offside on third-and-10, negating a sack that could have kept Nebraska off the scoreboard; and finally, they had to take a timeout on a Nebraska field-goal attempt because they had 12 men on the field.

There were other problems as the game continued, including two fumbles by Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray that led to Nebraska touchdowns.

It will be the same thing next week unless a smart Gophers team -- it has 42 players with grade-point averages of at least 3.0 -- finally listens to Kill and quits playing stupid football.


 Joel Maturi has put his house up for sale, leading to rumors that the Gophers athletic director will retire when his contract expires at the end of June. Regardless of the house situation, close friends of both Maturi and his wife are convinced that Maturi, 66 and fed up with all of the problems on campus, will call it quits next year.

• In 2010, rookie quarterback Sam Bradford signed a six-year contract for $68 million with the Rams, including $50 million guaranteed. But with a new NFL collective bargaining agreement reached this summer, Ponder signed a four-year deal for $10 million, including a $6 million signing bonus. The entire contract is guaranteed.

• Jack Morris spent 10 days in the Instructional League working with Twins pitchers. The should-be Hall of Famer from St. Paul got the bug for being a pitching coach and has been offered a job with the Twins’ Gulf Coast League team. “There are other things we need to talk about,” he said. “But if it seems like something with a good future, I will give it a try.”

 Gale Gillingham was a great fullback in high school at Little Falls. The Gophers under Murray Warmath needed help in the offensive line, so Gillingham was shifted to guard and almost quit. But he ended up being a first-round draft choice by the Packers and a five-time Pro Bowl pick. Unfortunately this close personal friend, 67, died at his home last week.

• Former Gophers forward Kris Chucko had to retire from hockey because of lingering injuries from concussions. Chucko played for the Gophers from 2004 to ’06 and was drafted 24th overall by the Calgary Flames in 2004. But Chucko, who plans to return to the university to get his business management degree, told the Canadian Press that it wasn’t hard to decide to retire. “When you sit at home with a headache for six or seven months straight, the decision doesn’t come too hard,” he said.



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