Six NFL teams have started the 2013 season 0-3. Many of the names are shockers, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. Some are not, like the Jacksonville Jaguars. Our Minnesota Vikings lie somewhere in-between.
There are nine teams that have a worse point differential than Minnesota. In fact, the Houston Texans are only three points better, yet they are 2-1. The three losses have been close. In each game Minnesota appeared to have a legitimate chance to win. Final touchdown drives have been the nail in the coffin in back-to-back weeks.
These games that could have gone our way did not. Blame is to be had. First on fans' lists is Christian Ponder, the 3rd year quarterback who has plainly struggled this season. Ponder currently ranks 30th among quarterbacks in passer rating with a 65.9 (that is really bad). Only rookie Geno Smith of the Jets, injured Brandon Weeden of the Browns, and the deposed Josh Freeman of the Bucs are lower. That is unacceptable.
A look at the other quarterbacks struggling this year is an impressive one. Outside of the top twenty best QBs ratings includes: Robert Griffin III, Joe Flacco, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Colin Kaepernick. There is not a single soul in Minnesota who would not want to trade for any of these quarterbacks over Ponder. And yet they are not playing well. For example, Kaepernick and Brady have virtually the same yards per game as Ponder.
But 0-3 is 0-3. Fans are not willing to wait for Ponder. They want someone else.
That someone will be Matt Cassel.
If Cassel is given the helm because of Ponder's "rib injury", it may provide an immediate spark. Cassel has more experience, and will probably see the field better than the young Ponder. Add to that the all important return of Jerome Felton and Minnesota might have enough impetus to finally close out a game. Being that this 'home' game is in London, and the Steelers are also 0-3, a lot of national attention will be placed on this game that otherwise might not. One of these teams will be 0-4.
I cannot help but be skeptical that replacing Ponder is the solution.
It was only a few months ago that many fans were screaming for Joe Webb and then there was the playoff game in Green Bay. One difference, Matt Cassel has taken two teams to the playoffs, which is very un-Webb like. Cassel learned under Tom Brady, and must still be in some contact with him, because it was Brady who recently leaked that Cassel may start.
Cassel also led a lesser team to the playoffs in the Chiefs. Unfortunately, Cassel's magic ran out and he was booed much like Ponder is now.
Short-term, playing Cassel seems to be the right move. Maybe the offensive line will start to care more about their quarterback's welfare, as after the Browns game that is unclear? Maybe the defense will hold an opponent under thirty points? Maybe the coach will know the rules and help the officials that do not? Maybe the other coaches will prepare for trick plays?
But long-term things look bad. The offensive line that was supposed to be one year better, is not. The linebacker trio had been a step short on most plays. Special teams have not been very special, save for a single Cordarrelle Patterson return. Coach Leslie Frazier does not have the fans feeling confident, and now it appears the players feel the same. Even the defensive secondary looked bad last Sunday, mostly after Chris Cook's early exit. This despite three interceptions of the Browns' newly 29th-passer-rating-ranked Brian Hoyer.
Times are not good. A change must be made soon, or at least a concession.
Here's to hoping Felton make Adrian Peterson feel like Superman again.