Sunday slant: Ponder the experienced one

The Vikings will likely look for a veteran quarterback when free agency opens. They should, with less than five years of experience between their three quarterbacks currently on the roster. But that veteran might not be the best starting option.

There is a saying in poker that goes, "You think long, you think wrong."

The idea is that over-analysis can lead a player away from his initial, correct instincts and into a bad decision.

How does that apply to the Vikings? When it comes to their quarterback decision for 2011, most believe that a veteran is the more logical option the longer the lockout drags on, but color me a contrarian on that point. Having seen Ponder operate on the field and in the classroom learning offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's playbook, the Vikings might already have their best starting option on the roster.

The Vikings have sent out mixed signals about their commitment to signing a veteran quarterback when the lockout ends. Most of the comments indicate that is the plan, and it should be, but not necessarily automatically for the starting spot. In most normal situations, the veteran quarterback familiar with a certain system is going to be the better option, but this is one unique (and most undesirable) situation the Vikings find themselves in this summer.

Concerning factors mostly beyond their control have stacked on top of each other and could make them the biggest losers in the lockout war. In hindsight, without another viable option, Brad Childress stuck with aging Brett Favre too long. Tarvaris Jackson wasn't the answer, but the Vikings never adequately accounted for that mistake. That part of the equation they could have controlled, but Childress is gone and Leslie Frazier is rightfully looking to move on and commit to the most important position for the next decade instead of trying to patch the position on a season-by-season basis.

With Christian Ponder as the Vikings' first-round choice and the lockout keeping coaches from working with him, it might seem that a proven veteran is the right choice for this season, but part of the issue is the system. Musgrave isn't going to run a straight West Coast offense or a straight anything offense. He said after being hired that it would be a mix of things that would be unique to the Vikings. Comments from him and others since then indicate that is still the case.

The influences will be many. There are elements of the West Coast from Musgrave's days with Mike Shanahan, Joe Montana and Steve Young. There will be elements from Mike Heimerdinger and some Pittsburgh Steelers influences. In short, Musgrave is mixing his favorite parts from his playing and coaching days and making this offense all his own – so no quarterback will be completely versed in Musgrave's Purple Potpourri offense.

Like many of the veteran options available in free agency, Ponder also has experience with at least some elements of the offense from his Florida State days, as he proved when on the field and in the classroom at the IMG Madden Football Academy. Sitting in a study session run by former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke, Ponder called out one of the plays being drawn up on the white board before Weinke was done with his introduction. Not all of the terminology was exactly the same, but Ponder knew the play and the keys to it.

It seems as if one-third of the veteran free-agent or trade possibilities have been linked to the Vikings at one point or another this offseason – Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton, Vince Young, Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck the bigger names among them.

What has become clear is that the Vikings will likely look for a veteran with at least five years of experience. That's the right move with their young stable of candidates at this point – rookie Ponder and second-year players like Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar – but that doesn't necessarily mean that veteran addition should be the starter. With Ponder and Webb both getting a head start on the offense during installation-like sessions in Florida, they might be more versed in Musgrave's mixed offense than any veteran.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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In most normal situations, the veteran quarterback familiar with a certain system is going to be the better option, but this is one unique (and most undesirable) situation the Vikings find themselves in this summer. Concerning factors mostly beyond their control have stacked on top of each other and could make them the biggest losers in the lockout war. In hindsight, without another viable option, Brad Childress stuck with aging Brett Favre too long. Tarvaris Jackson wasn't the answer, but the Vikings never adequately accounted for that mistake. That part of the equation they could have controlled, but Childress is gone and Leslie Frazier is rightfully looking to move on and commit to the most important position for the next decade instead of trying to patch the position on a season-by-season basis. With Christian Ponder as the Vikings' first-round choice and the lockout keeping coaches from working with him, it might seem that a proven veteran is the right choice for this season, but part of the issue is the system. Musgrave isn't going to run a straight West Coast offense or a straight anything offense. He said after being hired that it would be a mix of things that would be unique to the Vikings. Comments from him and others since then indicate that is still the case. The influences will be many. There are elements of the West Coast from Musgrave's days with Mike Shanahan, Joe Montana and Steve Young. There will be elements from Mike Heimerdinger and some Pittsburgh Steelers influences. In short, Musgrave is mixing his favorite parts from his playing and coaching days and making this offense all his own – so no quarterback will be completely versed in Musgrave's Purple Potpourri offense. Like many of the veteran options available in free agency, Ponder also has experience with at least some elements of the offense from his Florida State days, as he proved when on the field and in the classroom at the IMG Madden Football Academy. Sitting in a study session run by former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke, Ponder called out one of the plays being drawn up on the white board before Weinke was done with his introduction. Not all of the terminology was exactly the same, but Ponder knew the play and the keys to it. It seems as if one-third of the veteran free-agent or trade possibilities have been linked to the Vikings at one point or another this offseason – Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton, Vince Young, Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck the bigger names among them. What has become clear is that the Vikings will likely look for a veteran with at least five years of experience. That's the right move with their young stable of candidates at this point – rookie Ponder and second-year players like Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar – but that doesn't necessarily mean that veteran addition should be the starter. With Ponder and Webb both getting a head start on the offense during installation-like sessions in Florida, they might be more versed in Musgrave's mixed offense than any veteran. 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