Last time the Packers visited the Metrodome, they beat the Vikings by 28 points. That game ended Brad Childress' tenure and signaled the end of the competitive portion of Brett Favre's career.

The Packers return to the Dome on Sunday to face a team that has changed coaches and quarterbacks and yet not improved at all in the intervening 11 months.

The Vikings are 7-15 since the beginning of the 2010 season. They are failing for their second head coach in two seasons.

This is becoming one of the ugliest stretches in franchise history, and with two of the next three games on the schedule reading "Green Bay," it could get much uglier.

That's why what will be asked of Christian Ponder the rest of the season, and in his first NFL start, is unfair.

Some quarterbacks are asked to manage the offense.

Ponder will be asked to alter the direction of a spiraling franchise.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier benched Donovan McNabb, his hand-picked stopgap quarterback, on Tuesday, and promoted Ponder, his hand-picked franchise quarterback.

What Frazier is learning is what Childress learned, for better and worse: As a coach, you are your quarterback.

Mike Shanahan was a genius when he coached John Elway. Not so before or since. Bill Belichick looked average at best before Tom Brady took over. Since, he has joined the ranks of the all-time greats.

Starting at practice on Wednesday, Ponder will assume the most influential and difficult position in sports. What the past two seasons have proved is that the Vikings require a leader who wears a uniform.

For all of his flaws, and contrary to his behavior in 2010, Brett Favre in 2009 made everyone around him better. Great quarterbacks do that.

Release the ball quickly, you make your offensive line look better by avoiding sacks. Read defenses adeptly, you make your coaches look smart by avoiding bad plays. Throw accurately, and you make your receivers look dynamic. Strike fear in defenses, and you create holes for the running game. Score enough points, and you improve your team's pass rush.

Quarterbacks are architects; other players can only caulk and spackle.

Sunday night, McNabb displayed the leadership skills of a CEO with a golden parachute.

After dropping back into his end zone and seeing a pass rush, McNabb collapsed. He flopped rather than trying to scramble or throw the ball away or dive forward another 3 inches to avoid a safety.

If Ponder learned anything from McNabb, it is this: If you're trapped in the end zone, make an effort to get out. It's the least an NFL quarterback can do.

"I didn't see a lack of effort, but we were not nearly as physical up front on either the offensive line or the defensive line as we needed to be," Frazier said of Sunday's game. "That is unexplainable. That's what we kind of pride ourselves on, our O-line and our D-line, particularly our defensive line really being the force to drive our defense.

"We were not the most physical group out there ... and that's a concern."

As he spoke Monday, Frazier kept sounding more and more disappointed, like a kid who just realized that not only did he get pajamas for Christmas, but also that nobody saved the receipt.

He's stuck with what he has, and he'll have to wait a long time before getting anything else.

What Frazier might be realizing is that the same players who quit on Childress last fall, the same players who vowed to play harder and better for Frazier because they respect him as a man and former NFL player, sometimes looked like quitters Sunday night in Chicago.

Ponder will be asked, if not Sunday then over the course of the next two seasons, to cure what ails a collapsing team. If he fails, those who drafted him won't be the only people losing their jobs.

All these players who quit on Childress and Frazier will be headed out of town, as well.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. •