Souhan: Ponder still a mystery, but Cassel fits all the requisites

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2013 - 11:00 PM

The guy who has started the Vikings’ past two games has come through in a way they wish Christian Ponder had.

hide

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel (16) threw under pressure from Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin (96). The Vikings won 48-30.

Photo: Mckenna Ewen, Mckenna Ewen

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Vikings will be looking for a quarterback in the draft. If they could draw up a prototype of the ideal prospect, he would look something like this:

About 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. Good mechanics. Able to control a huddle and read defenses. Adept at throwing the deep ball.

He’d possess leadership skills and experience. He’d be able to complete about 62 percent of his passes, move well within the pocket and handle the diplomatic demands of the modern NFL quarterback.

The Vikings absolutely should draft someone like that. They also should realize that they’ll have that guy in their huddle Sunday.

If you want to label Matt Cassel, you can pick any convenient phrase, and you’d be right. He has been project, prospect, young backup, winning starter, losing starter, demoted starter, castoff, veteran backup, emergency starter and, this season, a third quarterback on a team that temporarily favored two struggling quarterbacks.

At season’s end, either he or the Vikings can opt out of the second year of his two-year contract. The Vikings would be wise to keep him around. Asked whether he wants to stay, Cassel said, “I would love to be back here.’’

Cassel has done exactly what the Vikings wanted Christian Ponder to do: take advantage of defenses stacked up to stop Adrian Peterson. Last Sunday, Cassel went further, taking advantage of a defense that had probably never heard of fill-in starter Matt Asiata. Cassel produced 48 points with an offense missing its top two backs and top two tight ends.

A Vikings quarterback has thrown for 240 yards five times this season. Ponder and Freeman have done it zero times; Cassel has done it five times.

His teammates have raved about his huddle presence and leadership. He’s experienced, smart, tough and polished.

He’s also the kind of guy you can root for. He didn’t start at USC. He didn’t attend the scouting combine. When he showed up for USC’s pro day, in which prospects work out for NFL scouts, he wasn’t given the right time. He showed up late, and was asked to finish the infamous Wonderlic Test in about 10 minutes.

His score? “I have no idea,’’ he said, smiling. “Let’s just say I got 100 percent.’’

He was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round. After three years of studying under Tom Brady, he led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008.

“When I first came into the league, Tom Brady took me under his wing and mentored me,’’ Cassel said. “I was so blessed to have someone like that, who I still talk to just about every other week. That’s what this league is about, is continuing to help those guys around you.’’

Cassel remembers completing a pass in practice once but forgetting to put a receiver in motion. “Tom got all over me,” Cassel said. “I said, ‘We completed the pass!’ He said, ‘You have to be perfect. If you want to get in the huddle and scream at those guys and hold them accountable, you have to be perfect. They can’t look at you and say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy who forgot the motion.’ ”

Cassel calls Brady “unbelievably competitive, whether it’s pickup basketball or golf. We’ll play golf in the offseason — golf! — and somehow it becomes a knock-down, drag-out fight.”

Cassel rarely exudes that kind of fire, but he says it’s there.

“Of course I view myself as a starter,” he said. “I’ve started a lot of games in this league over a long period and I’ve worked hard to get there. Perceptions can change, one season to the next. I’ve been through it all. I know I’m capable. I know I’ve shown that I can play at a high level and be a good player at times in this league, and be a great player at times in this league.

“I don’t take anything for granted. I feel very fortunate to be in this position even nine years down the road.”

Cassel belongs to the class of quarterbacks who needs to find the right team, the right offense, at the right time in his career, and he may have.

“My family and I have had a great experience here,” he said. “The fans have been great to us. The organization, the people inside the locker room, have been great. That’s why I came here in the first place, because I thought it was a great fit for me, and my family, and my skill set.”

Passer rating is a highly imperfect statistic, but Cassel, if he had enough attempts to qualify, would this season rank ahead of Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck.

The Vikings prayed that Ponder would be just good enough to run their offense. It turns out that the guy they signed as Ponder’s backup can do more than that.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN.

His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib.

jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 64 3rd Qtr 6:08
LA Lakers 61
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 2nd Half 0:25
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 28 2nd Half
Texas-El Paso 25
Hawaii 10:59 PM
Chaminade
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
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
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 55 2nd Half 7:52
UC Santa Barbara 35
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 Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close