Vikings Insider: Last six games to show us a lot about Ponder

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2012 - 6:40 AM

His coach and GM are solidly behind the quarterback. But he knows this stretch of games will be very telling for his future.

hide

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder in his debut in 2011 against the Bears.

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder had options for his bye week free time.

Option A: Bounce between Charlottesville, Va., and Palo Alto, Calif., spending time with his striking girlfriend, ESPN's Samantha Steele, who was working the Virginia-North Carolina and Stanford-Oregon games.

Option B: Return to Sutton Bay in South Dakota to hunt pheasant with teammates John Sullivan, Kyle Rudolph, Chad Greenway and Cullen Loeffler. (Make a note that Ponder returned from that same hunting expedition in 2011 with about as many recoil bruises as he netted birds killed.)

So where would you have gone?

"That hunting trip didn't go so well for me last time," Ponder said. "I embarrassed myself."

The prospect of quality time with the gal had to be enticing also, right?

"That, too," Ponder said with a grin. "I had better options."

Score one for a young quarterback learning to make smarter decisions.

Hey, good judgment will be imperative over these next six weeks as the Vikings try to stay afloat in the NFC playoff race.

Today, Ponder returns to Soldier Field where he's shouldering exponentially more pressure than he had on the Vikings' last trip there. That came Oct. 16, 2011, when Donovan McNabb threw his last NFL pass and Ponder threw his first.

On that night Ponder was an eager rookie, giddy to make his debut even as the Vikings' season was imploding around him. Twenty starts later, he's now the sometimes promising, sometimes erratic quarterback who has the Twin Cities mixed up.

Doubting detractors see his inconsistency and fear he's Tarvaris Jackson 2.0 -- mobile and humble but ultimately too skittish to be anything more than a serviceable quarterback.

The Ponder believers? They're more willing to endure the performance dips with trust that this kid's intelligence, athleticism and natural leadership ability will all catalyze his ascension.

The most influential spokesmen for the pro-Ponder party are Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier, both of whom publicly voiced unwavering support for Ponder during the bye week.

Spielman operates under "a three-year rule" when compiling a full evaluation of young players. So that in itself provides Ponder peace of mind that he'll be given time to continue growing.

Frazier, meanwhile, has made sure to treat the quarterback's occasional struggles with constant encouragement.

So when outside concern spiked recently after Ponder endured a brutal three-game slump, the head coach offered reminders of the conversations they had the day after the 2011 draft.

Frazier told Ponder then he'd be the quarterback who would bring Minnesota a championship.

"That hasn't changed," Frazier promised Ponder. "Your mind can't ever get off of that. ... Don't let anybody outside ever tell you anything different."

That Frazier-Ponder bond will be important. For one, both realize their long-term futures are closely intertwined. But their rapport has also proven galvanizing.

"To hear Coach Frazier tell me I have nothing to worry about makes a big difference," Ponder said. "Our talks have been all about having fun with this. Going out and slinging it without worrying about making mistakes. It's important to have the confidence that the organization has your back.

"But I also know in the back of my mind there's a big need for me to perform well."

So now comes everything the Vikings and their fans could ask for. A proving ground. Six games with playoff implications. Four on the road -- starting Sunday against one of the league's most imposing defenses.

There's a lot on the line for the Vikings' young quarterback. But Ponder also realizes he can only prove himself by finding ways to excel under such intense pressure.

"Pressure isn't always a bad thing," he said. "This is the part of things that's enjoyable. Having meaningful games in November and December, having a chance to make a run at the playoffs, playing a bunch of really good teams. This is an opportunity to prove how good you really are. There's no reason to be overwhelmed by that."

Dan Wiederer • dan.wiederer@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
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
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Washington 102 FINAL
New York 91
Oklahoma City 114 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Cleveland 55 3rd Qtr 9:32
Miami 64
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Chicago
Golden State 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
DePaul 69 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 72
Ohio 58 FINAL
Nebraska 71
Colorado 12 1st Half 11:48
Hawaii 18
George Washington 7:30 PM
Wichita State
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
UCF
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
Texas
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
Stanford
(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
Minnesota
(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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close