Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and his offensive assistant coaches met Monday and decided to bench Donovan McNabb and replace the 13-year veteran quarterback with rookie first-round draft choice Christian Ponder.

Even though McNabb had perhaps his best game against the Bears on Sunday, when he received poor pass protection and had a lot of receivers drop passes, the coaches studied film of the Bears loss and decided they might be better off with a young quarterback who can scramble better and make a play when the protection breaks down.

Frazier has enough problems and doesn't need me to second-guess him, but I do believe a more appropriate debut for Ponder would have been Oct. 30 at Carolina rather than face the Packers and defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who last week blitzed 55 percent of the time against the Rams. This is after the Bears totalled 17 pressures, four hits and five sacks of McNabb.

Sure, the boo birds at the Metrodome will be happier with Ponder in the lineup. McNabb wished the best for Ponder and will continue to help him any way he can.

Speaking about Ponder, McNabb said: "He's a smart kid. He's a kid who has continued to progress since we went to training camp. ... He listens, and we've been really working with each other as well as Joe Webb. We have a great group here. I think he's going to have a lot of success. I've been a part of the whole deal of having a young quarterback in the room and making sure that he was getting prepared and ready and this was no different."

McNabb recalled his first start as a quarterback when he said: "You want to be perfect. You have to be patient, that's the most important thing going in as a rookie. You're going to see a lot of different things, but just kind of go with what you know and have fun."

McNabb said he will be helping Ponder on the sidelines.

"I've been mentoring while I was out there playing," he said. "The thing about it is when he's out there, you're seeing things from the sideline. [I will] just continue to help him so he would know and be aware the next time he goes out. Just try to make his job easier."

McNabb said he's ready to play again when needed.

"The good thing about it here is I know that I have a lot of football left in me," McNabb said. "I look forward to preparing hard and going out to practice and working on my craft and again, when called upon, be ready to go. But in this position, we get too much credit at times, but we definitely get too much criticism. At the end of the year, obviously that will be something that I'll look at and see what's next. But the focus is now, on what I can do to prepare myself and get ready, as well as continue to get better."

To make it clear, I believe Ponder should get the chance to start this year so the Vikings know where they stand at quarterback in the future. But making your debut against the Packers, who won here last year 31-3 and went on to win the Super Bowl, is a tough start for a young quarterback.

Nebraska memories

Joe Salem, who played for the Gophers football team under Murray Warmath and returned to coach Minnesota from 1979-1983, had a good experience with Nebraska as a player in 1960, when the Gophers beat the Cornhuskers 26-14 in Lincoln. He then had a bad one as a coach, when coach Tom Osborne -- now Nebraska's athletic director -- and the Cornhuskers thumped the Gophers 84-13 in 1983.

Now with Saturday's game coming up with Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium, and the Gophers having lost the past two games to Michigan and Purdue by a combined score of 103-17, one hopes the Gophers can put up a stand against a Cornhusker team that won't match the talent of the 1983 team that had a soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner in running back Mike Rozier and eventually lost its only game that season to Miami 31-30 in the 1984 Orange Bowl.

Chuck Dickerson, who coached former Vikings coach Brad Childress in high school, was the Gophers defensive coordinator in 1983. Dickerson had his secondary cover the great Nebraska receivers one-on-one, and they scored as they liked.

Salem had respectable records of 4-6-1, 5-6 and 6-5 in his first three years against a tough nonconference schedule. They had great success in running the run-and-shoot offense and because of their success, most of Salem's coaching staff left for schools who would pay more.

The loss of those assistants and a low budget to replace them resulted in a 3-8 record in 1982 and 1-10 in 1983, which cost Salem his job. He was replaced by Lou Holtz in 1984.

The Gophers, after a bye week, should be able to play better against Nebraska than they did against Michigan and Purdue.


• Maybe it would help the Vikings if come Sunday, Aaron Rodgers starts thinking about the 2009 season when Jared Allen sacked the Packers quarterback 7 1/2 times in two games. And what might help Allen on Sunday is that starter Chad Clifton is out, and second-year tackle Marshall New- house, who hasn't allowed a sack this year, will be the one trying to control Allen.

• Even though Adrian Peterson was limited to 39 yards in the loss to the Bears, the Vikings' star running back is on pace for 1,432 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.

• Jerry Kill was saying with all of the negative things that have happened to the Gophers football team this year, the first thing everybody on the bench was looking for when true freshman Marcus Jones ran a kickoff back 92 yards for a touchdown against Purdue was a flag.

• Two of Joe Salem's sons are in coaching. Tim is the special teams and tight ends coach at Central Florida, and Brad is the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Michigan State.

• Through three games with the Fraport Skyliners in Frankfurt, Germany, Orono native and former Wisconsin basketball star Jon Leuer is averaging 13.3 points per game, good for second on the team. Leuer is also averaging 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 32 minutes per game.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. •