There I said it.
I know the majority is ready to hang the guy. And the truth be told he has been hard to defend at times. But Christian Ponder showed in yesterday's loss to the 49ers that he has a good arm. He made some good throws, despite pressure from a strong 49ers rush. Ponder completed 17 of 23 passes, albeit many were for short yardage. His only interception appeared to be more a case of a receiver stopping a route than a poor throw. A miscommunication at the worst. And the defense Ponder faced was bringing twisting blitzes and loaded with secondary talent.
And all this without Jerome Felton and Adrian Peterson. It cannot be understated how different the Vikings' offense is without the two Pro Bowler in the backfield. Felton is simply on of the best blocking backs in the game. His bone-jarring blocks and ability to protect the passer are the reasons he was selected by his peers to the Pro Bowl. And Adrian Peterson is not only the best running back today, he is among the best ever. Taking those two out of the arsenal is like telling Superman he can't fly or use his strength. Telling Spider-Man he can't spin webs or jump around. The Vikings' offense without these two is not an offense. It is offensive.
And it is with that knowledge that I fully endorse Christian Ponder.
Ponder led the Vikings from a 3-13 record to a 10-6 mark. Sure, Peterson was easily the biggest reason as to why, but not the only one. Ponder had big games vs. big teams. Minnesota was 3-4 vs. playoff teams with Ponder at the helm. In five of those games, Ponder's passer rating was over 80. Three of them over 90. And he was over 110 in two. Despite five of those seven games being on the road vs. playoff caliber teams, Ponder wasn't bad. Combined in these seven games he had 138 completions in 227 attempts, throwing eleven touchdowns with five interceptions. He also averaged near five carries for twenty four yards per game. Not elite numbers, but decent.
Despite those facts, fans are unwilling to see the good in Ponder. Most of these fans have been angry since Christian was drafted 12th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Maybe they had their hearts set on Andy Dalton, chosen 35th? Of course, Colin Kaepernick was chosen 36th, another in a long line of missed quarterbacks by Spielman and his predecessors, the angry fan says. Or they were upset we did not trade up and draft Blaine Gabbert (10th) or Jake Locker (8th)? Who knows why so many have written off Ponder?
He is going to have a good year.
In the last six NFL Drafts we have seen franchise quarterbacks swooped up. In five of those years a quarterback was drafted first, and the other third. All but one of those picks are presently starting for their perspective teams (JaMarcus Russell the exception). Three have made the playoffs (Matt Ryan four times and Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford once each). That is it. Ponder did with a 3-13 team something that Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, and Russell could not. Get to the playoffs.
For every starting quarterback drafted, there are many more who have not panned out. Just in those same last six drafts, names like: Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Pat White, Brian Brohm, Kevin O'Connell, Brady Quinn, John Beck, Drew Stanton, and Trent Edwards, have all been selected in the top three rounds. None are currently starting for anyone. Some may be progressing towards starting, while others never got a shot, or are on their way out.
Last year three rookie quarterbacks made a big splash in the NFL. Luck, Robert Griffin, and Russell Wilson demonstrated that a strong quarterback can be found in an instant. Whether it was with the first pick (Luck), or in the case of Wilson, the seventy-fifth, the 2012 season was the year of the young quarterback. Each made the playoffs. There is no denying that talent of these three quarterbacks. But only Wilson was available of the three to all but two teams. And no one could have predicted his success would come so soon. Though, if we thought about it, he was competing with Tarvaris Jackson.
Among highly-drafted 2nd year quarterbacks, Ponder was one of three to lead his team to the playoffs. Dalton and Kaepernick were the others. The top three quarterbacks from that draft (Newton, Locker, Gabbert) team's combined to average five wins each. You may not like what Ponder is doing, but you should be a lot happier than Titans, Panthers, and Jaguars fans.
Now is his time.
Fans are generally stubborn. Once hated, always hated. Many will never give Ponder a chance. The Vikings could go 12-4 this year, get to the NFC Championship, and if we lose blame it on Christian. Maybe the memory of Brett Favre's historical season is too fresh? Maybe we long for seasons like Randall Cunningham's 1998 year? Maybe we all have Fran Tarkenton on the brain?
If we took a moment to reflect we might think different. Didn't Gus Frerotte and T-Jack win a division together? How can anyone think that those two together could do that? The answer is easy. They had Adrian Peterson. They had a great pass rush. Sometimes you can win without Bradfords and Russells leading your team. Not every team had to have an Aaron Rodgers. And if you want a chuckle, check out his first few years in passer rating. In this town, he would have been dismissed.
No. I think Ponder is the right guy for the job. We need a quarterback who can throw solid passes against good teams. Last year Ponder did that. We need a quarterback who will not turn the ball over like Daunte Culpepper, after his Pro Bowl year. In the seven games vs. playoff teams, Ponder had only five picks. He has zero in the last two games, must wins to make the playoffs. He is your man. And we need someone to give the ball to Peterson.
Anyone can do that.