A Lesson from the Ponder Era
Image courtesy of Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsThe Christian Ponder Era was defined by unrealistic expectations and bad play mixed in with flashes of OK-ness. Despite some atrocious games statistically (he threw for less than 100 yards 3 times), the Vikings were in the playoff hunt in December of 2012 and managed to win their final four games to make the playoffs thanks to Adrian Peterson. Ponder's ceiling was always low and it seemed he could only run three or four gimmicky pass plays rather than an entire playbook of a pro-style offense.
Ponder played well in the 2012 regular season finale but couldn't play in the playoff game the next week due to injury. That right there is a microcosm of the Ponder Era. He played well enough to win in one game, and then (in this example literally) couldn't do anything the next week. His two appearances in this pre-season had the same contrast. In game one, he was 3-7 for 39 yards with three sacks. Radio/TV/Twitter wondered if he had flat out quit on the team. It was assumed he would be traded or cut. In game four, he looked fine against 3rd and 4th stringers.
It's time to move on from the Ponder Experiment. Trade him for whatever you can get. Or cut him and let him sign with someone else. He needs to go be a serviceable backup somewhere else that will limit his exposure. But, the Vikings can/should learn something here.
If there is a lesson, it is for Rick Spielman (or whoever the GM happens to be). The quarterback position isn't "settled" until you have a top-10 guy that can win playoff games. Don't reach for guys, don't use first round draft picks necessarily, but the Vikings should be drafting or finding a young QB to develop every year or two until they find the Guy. There should be a quarterback competition in every training camp until they have the Guy.
The Vikings passed on later round QBs like Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins in the 2012 draft. There were rumors that Ponder wasn't up for a QB competition and the Vikings didn't want to mess with his confidence. Those are the kind of guys you cut, not coddle. Teddy Bridgewater seems to embrace the competition. Great. Find a QB to compete with him in training camp next year. At some point, they'll find the QB that makes them stop looking for another QB. I hope, as much as anybody, that Bridgewater is The Guy. Hell, I wish Ponder were The Guy, but you can wish in one hand and...well, you see what I mean.
QB is the one position that isn't set until you have one of the best in the league. Hopefully the last few years has taught the Vikings that. The Christian Ponder Era doesn't have to be a total loss.
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