Long-suffering Vikings fans have been searching for a quarterback since the end of the Tice Administration, saved only by a one-year respite from Brett Favre and the oversized chip on his shoulder to prove a point to the Green Bay Packers.
Christian Ponder has put together back-to-back games with a passer rating better than 100 – efficiently working his way to a 105.5 rating in the season opener and 114.6 in Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Still, just as the Vikings' warts were wiped away in the opener with a come-from-behind overtime win, the sting of a loss is causing fan venom to be spewed Ponder's way. Don't mind Ponder completing 77.1 percent of his passes Sunday or the fact that he hasn't thrown an interception in two full games of action, despite being pressured often.
It understandable. Fans want wins now even though they were told time and again this is a rebuilding effort that could take time. But being understandable doesn't make the misplaced angst right.
Some fans wanted Sage Rosenfels as the backup instead of Joe Webb in the preseason, and some even called for Rosenfels to be the starter this year after a 122.9 rating in three preseason appearances. Never mind that those appearances came against third-team defenses or that going with a 34-year-old Rosenfels would be placing an aging quarterback who had made only 12 starts in 11 years in the NFL at the helm of a team young that is rebuilding in so many other places.
Even if Rosenfels had stayed healthy behind an inconsistent offensive line and been good for another couple of wins in 2012, what would that have given the team in 2013 or 2014 or whenever Rosenfels would have shown his age, if he hasn't already. Doesn't the fact that 31 other teams agree with the Vikings and haven't pick up Rosenfels yet say something about the assessment from scouts who do it for a living?
But enough on the misguided notion that Rosenfels could be a better option. Let's examine the alternatives. Last year, that alternative was another aging quarterback that showed he was past his prime and still doesn't have an NFL job. In his first six (and only) games with the Vikings last year, Donovan McNabb only got above a 90 passer rating once, and that was his final start for the team. Ponder did that three times in 10 games, including two over 100.
Before the Favre years, Tarvaris Jackson occasionally teased coaches, having two consecutive ratings above 100 when making starts in 2008, but neither of those included more than 17 passes, showing just how little faith the coaches really had in him.
It's been seven years since the Vikings had a young quarterback they trusted enough to throw the ball consistently, but they haven't had it since Daunte Culpepper's career essentially ended when three ligaments in his knee shredded.
Only four quarterbacks with two games under their belts this season have ratings above 110.
The counter-argument to Ponder's strong rating, of course, is that Ponder and the Vikings didn't stretch the field. It's true, but there was a reason for that, and throwing interceptions into double coverage would have brought even more criticism on him.
"They weren't giving us shots downfield. They were playing two-deep safeties basically the whole game and that's why we were running the ball," Ponder said. "They weren't giving us a chance to get downfield.
"They were definitely backing off and playing more coverage."
For a time, it seemed there wasn't enough urgency when the Vikings were down 14 points with six minutes to go and they continued to huddle up and tried to run the ball. As it turned out, it wasn't that Ponder and the Vikings didn't have enough time, they scored too quickly – at least when the Vikings' pass defense was going to allow consecutive 20-yard passes for the Colts to get into field goal range in less than 30 seconds.
Ponder might have shown more urgency, or the Vikings' coaches might have instilled that, but the second-year quarterback has proved two games in a row he can handle the big moment.
"If you don't score, then hurrying up isn't going to mean anything," Ponder said, adding that he relies on a quote from former NBA great Michael Jordan, who said he never changed in pressure situations, it was others around him that changed and got frenzied.
"If you start rushing things, then you're not going to perform well," Ponder added. "We kept calm. We knew there was a sense of urgency, but we kept calm and we executed."
The tendency is always to blame a quarterback in a loss. Sometimes that's justified. On Sunday, however, Ponder avoided pressing too much and had the Vikings in position to win, even when teammates on offense and defense were killing the team with ill-timed penalties. Even when he was under fire and took four sacks. Even when his receivers failed to get open. Even when the defense could only sack Andrew Luck twice and couldn't force a single turnover. Even when the Vikings offense trailed for all but one drive. Even when the Vikings had more penalty yards (105) than rushing yards (95).
Even with all the bad going on around him, Ponder wasn't the big problem, but he shouldered the big blame and accepted it willing.
All of this isn't to say that Ponder is definitively the solution at quarterback for the long term. He might be, but even if he isn't, he isn't the reason the Vikings lost Sunday. He and Percy Harvin are the reasons the Vikings still had a chance to win the game.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Yotter: Ponder unjustifiably accepts blame
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