Should Christian Ponder Start At QB For The Vikings in 2011?


Sunday’s putrid performance that the Minnesota Vikings offense showed in their 24-17 loss at the hands of the San Diego Chargers has forced many to second guess and wonder if the right man is playing the quarterback position.

Newly acquired Donovan McNabb wasn’t necessarily awful, he just didn’t do anything–at all– for the Vikings offense.

Entering the season, the perception instantly became that McNabb will start for this team at least this year and maybe the next. Followed by the beginning of the Christian Ponder era as quarterback for the Vikings.

Now, it becomes time to wonder, should Christian Ponder start at quarterback for the Vikings this season?

— First, lets look at McNabb’s numbers:

  • 7 for 15 for 39 yards (2.6 average).
  • 1 TD to 1 INT
  • 3 carries for 32 yards.
  • 47.9 passer rating.
— One caller on “Vikings Fanline” on the Minneapolis based KFAN radio suggested that McNabb’s performance was “vanilla.” I would suggest the same. He just seemed to be there, going through the motions, and half-heartedly throwing six yard routes to a a mediocre receiving core.
— And while McNabb showed little in the individual stat column, it was the offense’s overall horrendous performance that made me really question the route this team is going with McNabb running the huddle.
— While the Vikings rushed for 159 yards, 32 of those came from McNabb’s pocket presence rolling out of the pocket on a busted or never developing play. (Note: that part of McNabb’s game on Sunday you can’t take away from him. He felt rushes and made something out of nothing. Unfortunately, that isn’t why he’s quarterbacking our team.)
— Another 46 of the Vikings rushing yards came from a first half run by Adrian Peterson. So if you exclude AP’s big run, and McNabb’s busted play scrambling, you get 81 rushing yards as a team. Which isn’t necessarily terrible, but when you net only 28 yards passing as a team, 81 needs to be more like 181. If not 281.
— But the question I couldn’t get out of my head after the game is this: Is this even the situation we want Christian Ponder playing in?
— I’ve always been a proponent of quarterbacks learning while doing. I believe that in football, and in life, you always learn the most by doing and not watching. But the current situation with the Vikings may not be the most ideal situation to rush Ponder on the field.
— Granted, the Vikings do have super talented Adrian Peterson at running back, but after AP there isn’t a substantial level of explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball.
— Their offensive line is terrible. Straight up. Ever since former center Matt Birk wasn’t re-signed, the O-line hasn’t been the same. Starting left tackle Charlie Johnson got beat, consistently, to the point that a 400 pound Bryant McKinnie seemed like a no brainer better option on the left side of the line.
— Percy Harvin has had a solid career to date. While he has been plagued by migraines for the better part of his career, Harvin is a legit receiver in the NFL. But not a legit “number one” option on a successful football team. Let alone a team for a rookie to be starting at quarterback.
— Michael Jenkins did catch a three yard touchdown pass in the first half, but other than that he was essentially quiet.
— The enigmatic Bernard Berrian showed that he is who we thought he was. His one good  touchdown catch in preseason game number three proved to be more of a fluke than an act of pure skill. We saw why Brett Favre was anti-Berrian during his two years in Minnesota; poor route running, dropped passes, and ineffective run blocking on the outside.
— Kyle Rudolph showed flashes of brilliance in the pre-season, and Vishante Shiancoe has– while often times dubbed “over rated”– proven to be a viable option at tight end in this league. But with the O-line being as lethargic as it looked on Sunday, those two need to spent more time along the line helping with pass protection, instead of getting into the teeth of opposing zone defenses.
— And their defense– who spent far too much time on the field on Sunday– got torched by Philip Rivers, Mike Tolbert, and company to the point that in the second half it looked as if the Vikings were putting only nine men out there on defense. The injury to Chargers’ kicker Nate Kaeding, and lack of efficiency in the redzone that kept this game 24-17 instead of 37-17.
— McNabb will play better, that is for sure. But in order for the Vikings to be successful this season, McNabb needs to play significantly better than he did Sunday. The one thing that McNabb did do well, scrambling, is one traits that Ponder does significantly better than McNabb.
— If you look at the past (see Sanchez, Mark for a very recent example), rookie quarterbacks have succeeded when they have a solid foundation around them. It allows them to slowly become more comfortable in the given system, while also not having the pressure of the team relying on him to perform exceptionally every week.
— The current situation in Minnesota is not very conducive for a rookie quarterback to start and have success in. The inevitable struggle could potentially set Ponder back to a point where it could significantly damage the learning process.
— While that may be an extreme take on the quarterback situation in Minnesota, it does make a switch at the quarterback that much more difficult due to the Vikings and Ponder’s future being on the line if a switch epically fails.
Brett Cloutier
Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank. He covers all things Minnesota sports. You can follow him on Twitter @brettcloutier
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  1. carl franzen says

    no use your quarterback from last year, who proved against
    top team phil. he is a winner, he would have crushed san diego, with his running ability and used more receivers, than
    the old man we used. if we use the rookie i will guarrantee we get last place, even he does look good, ounce he gets crushed a few times, he will go downhill.

  2. Common Sense says

    McNabb is just plain washed up. The Vikes got him because their head coach knew him, plain and simple…however he neglected to remember Andy Reid got rid of him because he just couldn’t perform a high level anymore. Period. Washington got rid of him because he never tried, never wanted to be there and was one twinky away from being a complete cow. Also, if you pay attention to his reactions when he throws a pick, which is alot, he just smiles and laughs. You see anything funny about throwing a pick that sometimes ends up a pick six!!?? Never liked him and never will. Just quit fat boy and let Christian take the helm!

  3. I have been a fan of the Vikings since Joe Capp. My favorite quarterbacks were Joe Capp and Tommy Kramer. I wasn’t in favor of bringing in McNabb. He has been around so long, that defenses know how to beat him. I have nothing against McNabb personally, but at this stage of his career he is defensive friendly. For that reason, he is not a good fit for the Minnesota Vikings. He takes too long to get rid of the ball, and the Minnesota offensive line is not built for that. As a fan, I don’t mind a loss. But if that is how it is going to have to be, lets get beat with Pounder or Webb.

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