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Is Christian Ponder the best 3rd string QB in the NFL?

Posted by Jeff , 01 September 2014 · 736 views

Is Christian Ponder the best 3rd string QB in the NFL? What do the names Jeff Tuel, Jason Campbell, Matt Flynn, Josh Freeman and Matt McGloin have in common? They were each third string QBs that made starts for their team in 2013. Many times fans don't appreciate how important a QB buried on the depth chart can be, but these 5 examples in Buffalo, Cleveland, Green Bay, Minnesota and Oakland can go to show that a competent backup to the backup can be important at the quarterback position. So I'm here to argue why having Christian Ponder on the roster as the third QB is not only smart, I'm hoping to point out why he may be better than 31 other third teamers.

First, before I get to the how Christian Ponder may be the cream of the crop for the third team QBs, lets have a little fun with numbers to argue for the importance of the third string quarterback on an NFL roster. A year ago 13 teams entered the season with only two QBs on the roster. They were: Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England, New Orleans, St. Louis, Seattle, and Tennessee. This has shown to be a growing trend in the NFL. Some coaches, such as Bill Belicheck, might argue the roster spot used on that third QB could be used on other more valuable positions for depth or special teams. I would argue against that assertion. The combined record for the 5 third string QBs that started in 2013 was 4-16. Think about how much worse it may have been if one of those teams had needed to pull someone off the street and insert them directly in to an offense they had no experience in. Ok, probably not that much worse than that combined record shows (by the way, feel free to insert your own Josh Freeman joke here). There was 1 third string quarterback that did manage to keep his team afloat while in the playoff hunt and this was Matt Flynn! His record was 2-2 in games started. Green Bay was one of the previously mentioned teams to try going in to the season with only two QB's, but I'm grouping Flynn in with those other 4 afore mentioned third stringers because he should have been very familiar with the Green Bay offense seeing as he had played there two seasons prior to rejoining the Pack mid-season last year. This season it looks as if 14 teams will be attempting to get by with only two QBs on roster. So far those teams include Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Miami, New England, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Diego, Seattle, and Tampa that will only have the two QBs on roster. Whether any of these teams add a third QB after week 1, or stick with only two QB's, it remains to be seen how this will work out.

The previously mentioned 4-16 combined record for third string quarterbacks forced in to starting action is exactly why someone with the credentials of Christian Ponder is valuable in this role. Imagine the Green Bay situation from last year playing out for our purple gang. A scenario, however horrifying it is to think about, where both Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater were to become injured and unable to play for a week or more. Would you want a Christian Ponder to step in and play or would you prefer a Jeff Tuel-type?

There is a fair number of Christian Ponder detractors out there in the Vikings fandom who may not look at him objectively, so let's use some statistics to make a fair and objective decision. Christian Ponder on his career is 14-20-1 after 35 starts spanning three seasons. His most successful season was in 2012 where he started every game, quarterbacking the Vikings to a record of 10-6 and a playoff appearance. Unfortunately that lone playoff appearance ended up in a loss to Green Bay. He owns a 60.2% completion rate, 6436 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes compared to 34 interceptions. On the negative side, his yards per attempt is sadly a paltry 6.4 and he's been sacked 89 times, which can be attributed to him holding the ball too long and poor line play. Let's not forget though that he is a former 1st round selection, which means he was highly thought of at one point. Now, whether or not the 12th overall pick was too high for him is a debate for another day and another blog.

You've heard why a third QB is important and we've run through Ponder's numbers, so now the question needs to be answered, is Christian Ponder the best 3rd string quarterback in the NFL? To determine that, we need to look at who else occupies those spots on the depth charts of other NFL teams. Ask yourself this, do any of the following names sound like a better go to option to start a game right now than Christian Ponder? We have names like Matt Barkley, Matt McGloin, Joe Webb, David Fales, Kellen Moore, Josh Johnson, Landry Jones, Dustin Vaughan, Sean Renfree, Scott Tolzien, Zach Mettenberger, Tom Savage, Aaron Murray, Colt McCoy, Austin Davis, Logan Thomas, or Ryan Griffin. Of that list, only McCoy, McGloin, Tolzien, Josh Johnson, and Joe Webb have made any previous starts. Their combined starting records amount to 7-23-1, with Colt McCoy making the majority of those starts (6-16). A few of these other guys listed may have potential down the line, but for right now I would give Ponder the edge in experience and play by a wide margin.

So is Christian the best 3rd string QB around right now? Are 3rd string QBs even worth keeping on roster? I cast my vote as yes, but let me here what your opinions are in the comment section below.




 

Now, whether or not the 12th overall pick was too high for him is a debate for another day and another blog.

 

There are plenty of us who thought it was a major reach at the time and believe there is never a bad day to debate it.  That said, he is probably the best 3rd string QB and might even be an adequate back-up.  (I would put better odds on it happening to him than I would have for T-Jack when he left, but T-Jack keeps on beating out the competition to remain #2 in Seattle.)

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