No audible was called. What was leaked Tuesday is now official: The Minnesota Vikings' new starting quarterback is rookie Christian Ponder.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made that announcement Wednesday at his press conference, confirming media and agent reports that he had informed both quarterbacks of the decision on Tuesday. Frazier also called it a permanent move and Ponder opened his press conference by telling reporters he had better get used to seeing them every week.
"He is our starting quarterback. There is no wavering. I told our team we're counting on him to lead us over the remainder of the season," Frazier said.
"… It does not mean that I'm giving up on the season or our coaching staff. We're not giving up on the 2011 season. The decision was made purely based on what would give us the best chance to win on Sunday. That's why the decision was made. I didn't feel or sense that staying status quo was going to get us a win on Sunday."
Ponder's starting debut will come Sunday afternoon against an undefeated Green Bay Packers team that brings a 6-0 record and their defense of the Super Bowl title to Mall of America Field. The Packers also bring the league's top-rated quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, but Ponder isn't going to compare his first starting opportunity in the NFL to that of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
"I've always focused on myself and focused on my game, put the pressure on myself to perform at a high level and not really compare myself to other guys," Ponder said.
"I don't think anyone's expectations have ever been higher than what I put on myself. I have high expectations for myself and because of that I always try to prepare myself for success. When things don't go my way, I make sure that they do. I'm a perfectionist. I'm going to do everything I can to be successful and reach my expectations."
Ponder received his first regular-season action Sunday night against the Chicago Bears and completed 9 of 17 passes for 99 yards in relief of veteran starter Donovan McNabb in the fourth quarter. Ponder even played well enough to earn a compliment from the player he is now replacing, with McNabb saying Ponder did a "great job" in Chicago.
The Bears certainly didn't relent when Ponder came in with a 36-10 deficit to start the fourth quarter.
"I think it just gives me the confidence I can do it," he said of facing the blitzing Bears. "I actually threw a hot route, which was good. To see that and react to it obviously was good. I'm going to get a lot more reps and practicing the blitz because Green Bay is probably going to bring a lot of pressure. But I'm definitely comfortable and I was definitely confident doing it."
Frazier said McNabb will become the No. 2 quarterback and said McNabb handled the news as well as can be expected.
"Donovan was terrific, a class individual as you know, if you've had the chance to speak with him," Frazier said. "He's truly a pro in every sense of the word. He's a competitor. He wanted to be able to finish things, but he understood why we were doing what we're doing."
In six starts with the Vikings, McNabb completed 94 of 156 passes (60.3 percent) for 1,026 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, but his inaccuracy has been a growing point of contention for Vikings fans, who booed after his first pass at the Viking's last home game, a 34-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals, and several times after that.
Sunday's game against the Packers will be Ponder's first regular-season appearance at Mall of America Field, but it won't be his last after the poise he showed in one quarter of a game against Chicago.
"Some of the things he did let me know that the game is not too big for him. It's not too fast for him," Frazier said. "He did some good things in a short period of time. They did not take their No. 1 defense off the field and continued to bring pressure, continued to run their system. He handled it very, very well. That was an indication for me that, if we're going to do something, this is the time."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Frazier: ‘No wavering' on Ponder decision
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