In the Vikings’ ideal world, Joe Webb won’t see the field much in 2012.
At present, the chips are being pushed to the middle of the felt as an all-in bet on Christian Ponder, whose 10-start performance as a rookie was erratic. But there remains a pervasive belief within the Vikings’ organization that Ponder has all the tools to take a big leap forward in his second season.
The best-case hope: Ponder removes all doubt that he is indeed the franchise quarterback that general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier believe him to be.
Which would leave Webb as the odd man out. Sort of.
Webb is still an incredibly valuable back-up plan at quarterback. That much was proven when he delivered impressive results in relief of Ponder at Detroit and Washington last December. And Frazier has made it very clear the comfort that having Webb as a solid QB No. 2 provides. After all, Ponder had injury problems over each of the final five weeks last season and failed to finish three starts.
But if Ponder stays healthy and has success, Webb will spend most of his Sundays chained to the sideline. On Thursday at the NFL Combine, Frazier said Webb is being stamped with the “quarterback only" tag. Gone are the days of experimenting with Webb as a wide receiver.
“Although he can do a lot of different things, we really want to see him develop at the quarterback position,” Frazier said. “We're leaning, as we speak today, toward moving away from some of those other things he's capable of doing.”
Talk to Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave or quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson regarding Webb’s potential as a quarterback and they’ll both come back to a three-word description for what has prevented Webb from vying for the starting role: Time on task.
So in order to give Webb his greatest shot at success, the Vikings feel it’s necessary to make him a full-time quarterback, to not allow him any side distractions.
“He's a viable No. 2 for us without question,” Frazier said. “We feel he creates a lot of pressure for defenses having to defend him. We want to give him the best chance to really fulfill his potential as a quarterback. I think if we can let him home in on a position and not move him around quite as much, that should be a plus for him and a plus for us."
And just to be clear, Frazier still hopes to find ways to involve Webb some in the offensive game plans as a quarterback. Frazier also continues to assert that there is so much to love about what Webb brings to the table, giving the Vikings great confidence that there won’t be much of a dropoff if something were to happen to Ponder.
Said Frazier: “[I like] his athletic ability, his playmaking ability, his leadership qualities. Just the energy he brings to the team when he’s out there.”