Somehow, I know quite a few Minnesota Viking fans. A common trait they all share is their displeasure — bordering on embarassment — in regard to Minnesota’s starting quarterback, Christian Ponder. “We’d be fine if we had a better quarterback” is a phrase I’ve heard more than once from more than one disgruntled fan.
I must be honest and say that I haven’t spent a lot of time watching Ponder or the Vikings play over the past few years. One game I did watch was the Viking’s Week 17 win over Green Bay, a game that clinched a playoff berth for Minnesota. I then tuned in the following week to watch the Vikings lose to that very same Green Bay team by two touchdowns. There were only two notable differences between the first and second game: the location and Minnesota’s starting quarterback.
Let’s be honest here. Homefield advantage is important, however, it is not worth a 17 point swing between two playoff teams. Yet that’s what happened last season when Minnesota won the first matchup with Green Bay by 3 and lost the second one by 14. The difference in the second game, more than anything else, was that Ponder did not play. I’m not going to sit here and argue that Minnesota would have beat Green Bay with Ponder, but I will say I think Ponder would have outperformed Joe Webb (11-30, 180 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT). Just one week earlier, Ponder went for 234 yards, three touchdowns and no picks against the Packers.
Yes, everyone would love to have Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees quarterbacking their team, both those guys are the absolute cream of the crop. They are not a dime a dozen. If you don’t have one of those guys, the best you can hope for is a solid performer who limits mistakes and can lead a team in any situation. In my opinion, that is what Ponder does.
I’ve heard some people mention Ponder as one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. Statistically, nothing could be further from the truth. Ponder’s completion percentage of 62.1 in 2012 was less than a point lower than Tom Brady’s and higher than that of Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford and Joe Flacco. His passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio were basically the same as Jay Cutler’s and higher than Andrew Luck’s.
If Ponder is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, what does that make Eli Manning and Joe Flacco?
The fact is, a lot of the negativity directed at Ponder is the result of him not being a great fantasy option. In a world where your fantasy football rep is dangerously close to defining your worth as a player, fans don’t seem to respect a quarterback who doesn’t throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns every year. Ponder hasn’t done that and likely won’t as long as Adrian Peterson is carrying the ball for the Vikings.
Ponder has the ability to throw with the best of them in a shootout, he just rarely has to. Unfortunately, it may take losing Adrian Peterson again for a long stretch of the season for Ponder to prove his worth to both Viking and football fans in general.
For now, we all have to do our best to convince ourselves that not every quarterback has to be Drew Brees. Sometimes a guy like Ponder who just gets the job done without putting up video game numbers and throwing highlight reel passes is your best option. I’d personally take a guy who throws 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions over a guy who throws 30 touchdowns and 17 interceptions any day, especially when you have a back like Peterson to make up the difference.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON MAY 20, 2013