Before this season began, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman says he sat down, performed a detailed statistical analysis of a handful of elite quarterbacks around the NFL, then used that data to project Christian Ponder’s 2012 statistics.
Through 10 games, Spielman insists, his Ponder projections have proven pretty darn accurate.
Spielman wouldn’t reveal the numbers he came up with for his young quarterback. So for now, we’ll have to take his word that they’re in the ballpark of what Ponder has done so far in aiding the Vikings’ 6-4 start: a .652 completion percentage, 2,027 yards, 12 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 24 sacks.
In a casual interview session Wednesday morning with print reporters, Spielman became the latest to voice his unwavering support for Ponder as the long-term answer at quarterback.
On the outside, Ponder’s worth may have come into question in recent weeks as he struggled mightily in games against Arizona, Tampa Bay and Seattle. The 24-year-old quarterback helped to quiet some of that agitation this past Sunday when he went 24-for-32 for 221 yards and two touchdowns in a much-needed win over Detroit.
Still, Spielman reiterated Wednesday that, under his philosophy, all young quarterbacks are entitled to be evaluated under a “three-year rule,” giving coaches and the front office a big enough sample size to evaluate hot streaks, disconcerting slumps and long-term viability.
Ponder, of course, is right in the middle of that timetable at present.
Said Spielman: “You've got to remember, our guy's only in his second year. You look at the history of development of quarterbacks and I've talked to you guys a lot about that and where they come. I know they're getting measured – regardless if they're a rookie or second-year [player] – they're going to get evaluated from the outside and from the media on their performance that week. But you have to be, from an internal standpoint, looking at the whole picture and looking at a length of time.”
With all the outside noise, there will always be an ongoing challenge for the team and the organization as a whole to retain patience with a young quarterback even as the outside world delivers hyper-reaction to every game. But the Vikings have done nothing but support Ponder in his second season.
“I know everybody in this organization believes Christian Ponder is our guy,” Spielman said. “And I have full, 100 percent belief that Christian Ponder's going to be our quarterback heading into the future. You also know that, as young guys develop, they're going to have hiccups. But you've got to be patient.”
Ponder’s encouraging effort against Detroit, Spielman said, delivered further proof that he is mentally tough enough to bounce back from some rough moments.
That Ponder took the postgame podium Sunday and made jokes about his recent slump and the theories that his girlfriend (ESPN’s Samantha Steele) had something to do with it proved refreshing.
“You have to have stuff roll off your back at that position,” Spielman said. “Just like a head coach or general manager. You know there's going to be the praises [that] come with that position. But the heavy criticisms come with that position, too. So you have to have the mental makeup to be able to handle all of that.”