Hartman: Without Ponder, Vikings had no chance to win

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 6, 2013 - 9:16 AM
If you want an expert's opinion on the Vikings' 24-10 playoff loss to the Packers, former NFL MVP Rich Gannon said the Vikings would have certainly had a legitimate shot to win Saturday night had they had a healthy Christian Ponder.

But with Ponder sidelined by a bad elbow after not practicing most of the week and Adrian Peterson operating with a quarterback who hasn't played all season and lacking the passing ability to make Peterson's running game effective, the Vikings were eliminated from the NFL postseason.

At halftime, the Packers, behind Aaron Rodgers, had 197 passing yards, compared to the 6 net yards passing for the Vikings with Joe Webb at quarterback.

Gannon, the former Vikings and Raiders quarterback now in his eighth season working as an analyst for CBS, said a big reason for the loss is that when coaches spend time during the week trying to get two quarterbacks ready to play while not knowing which one will, it creates complications that mean neither one is ready to do well in the game.

"That poor kid Joe Webb goes in there, and the speed of the game is so different and you know you're flying around," Gannon said. "It's tough. He doesn't have the timing and the rhythm with the receivers and the passing game, the offense, it's tough. It's a tough way to do it. It's hard."

On how Webb handled himself, Gannon said: "I thought he handled himself OK. He didn't throw the ball well. He was all over the place with his footwork. He was missing throws high, I mean, you know you go up against a good defense like that, tight coverage, he was very erratic with his location on throws and his accuracy.

"But I thought he ran around and made some plays. It's about what I expected from him. He's very athletic. He's a better runner than he is a passer right now, and he's a very raw player right now. He just doesn't have the experience. He's certainly not a finished product. He has a lot of work to do in order to get ready and feel good about him as a backup."

Rodgers the best in the game

Gannon then brought up that Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP, is the best quarterback in the game now.

"His mastery of the offense, he has probably the strongest arm in the league, his accuracy, his athleticism, I mean the scheme, it's just perfect for him," Gannon said. "They've got probably the best four-or-five deep at wide receiver. All of those guys could start for about any other team in the league."

Yes, Rodgers did his job, but the Vikings actually held the Packers to three points less than their season average, so the defense wasn't too bad.

Ponder improved, was missed

Gannon said he thought Ponder improved throughout the season, especially in the final four weeks.

"Look at what happened to him late in the year," Gannon said. "He went through that adversity, and you and I have talked before, everybody was so hard on him, but he kind of hung in there at the end, and he probably played the best game of his career against the Packers last week.

"I think everybody felt like, in a game where you think the Packers would be favored and it would be tough for the Vikings to go on the road, but with Ponder, as well as he played last week, and with Peterson, you felt like they had a real chance. But without Ponder, I knew it was going to be difficult, real difficult. They just didn't get anything going offensively."

Gophers to enroll

The Gophers football program expects four recruits to enroll Jan. 21: linebacker Damien Wilson of Jones County (Miss.) Junior College; quarterback Chris Streveler of Marion Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill.; and defensive linemen Hank Ekpe of Lewisville, Texas, and Jordan Hinojosa of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

The Gophers have a recent commitment from the top high school punter in the country in Ryan Santoso of Pace, Fla. He is very large for a punter, standing 6-5 and weighing 270 pounds. Normally the Gophers don't give scholarships to punters, but Santoso will get a scholarship.

Speaking of the Gophers, Kevin Sumlin, a former Gophers assistant coach, closed out a terrific first season as coach at Texas A&M by winning the Cotton Bowl 35-17 over Kansas State on Thursday night. The Aggies defense -- which curtailed a high-powered Wildcats offense -- was orchestrated by defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, who was the defensive ends coach for the Gophers from 1997 to 2000.


• There are three national firms — Hunt out of Indianapolis, Skanska out of New York and Gilbane out of Chicago — plus local firm Mortensen that are bidding to get the construction rights for the Vikings stadium.
• Mike Grant was convinced he would accept the St. John’s job until he was offered it. He then gave it strong consideration but he turned it down because he realized what a good position he had at Eden Prairie and he was convinced that as coach and athletic director, he had the best of both worlds.
• The Bears are eyeing the best coaching candidate available in Marc Trestman, the coach of the Montreal Alouettes, as their successor to Lovie Smith, who certainly should never have been fired to begin with. Trestman, the St. Louis Park native who has been successful every place he has been, turned down a chance to interview for the Oakland Raiders job last year. He tutored great NFL quarterbacks such as Bernie Kosar, Steve Young and Rich Gannon. But the Alouettes have Trestman signed through 2016, and he might not be released from his contract.
• Billy Robertson, a former vice president with the Wild, is a candidate for a new executive public relations job with the Gophers athletic department.
• Gordy Shaw, the former Gophers offensive line coach under Glen Mason and one of the best recruiters who has ever worked at the university, is a finalist for the St. Olaf coaching job. If the Oles hire him, he would do one great job for them.
• It was impressive to see North Dakota State's football team win its second consecutive FCS title in dominating fashion Saturday with a 39-13 victory over Sam Houston State, which lost to the Bison last year, too. There are 33 Minnesotans on the North Dakota State roster.


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