Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman have made their position clear: Christian Ponder is the Vikings' starting quarterback for 2013.
The head coach and general manager are in lock step with that stance with their starting quarterback – at least for this year and at least for the starting spot. After that, whether it's the starter in 2014 or the backup in 2013, all bets are off at the quarterback position.
"(A backup has) got to be a guy that comes in and understands that Christian is our starting quarterback," Frazier said at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. "But, yeah, he's got to be ready to play at any given time. That's just the nature of being the backup quarterback. He'd have to understand his role. That would be the
key. If the guy comes in and has the mindset that I'm going to create a problem in the locker room because he feels he should be the starter, that would not be a good fit."
However, despite the vote of confidence from the Frazier and Spielman, not all outside analysts are sold on Ponder's development.
"Still too much inconsistency. Still doesn't command the pocket as well as I think you need to as an NFL quarterback," said NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell. "A few throws here and there that you feel really good about and you know he's capable of it. Still a little bit too much of a one-read guy and then quick to move."
For Ponder, it was essentially a tale of three seasons in 2012. He started out well. In the first six games, he had only one outing in which his passer rating was below 80, and he went the first four games without throwing an interception, the last starter in the league without an interception.
Then it started to unravel. Over the next seven games, he had only one game with a passer rating above 80 and threw eight interceptions. The lowlight was blowing a halftime lead at Green Bay when he threw two bad interceptions in the second half. However, he rebounded in the final three games, throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions. That stretch was highlighted by a regular-season finale win against Green Bay that included three touchdowns, one interception and a 120.2 rating.
Cosell said Ponder's improvement was only in "bits and pieces."
"I think a couple of games at the end of the year you saw some improvement. I think he has to become much better as an anticipation thrower. He's sort of late with his throws. He almost seemed as if he was too early or too late, like he just didn't have a great feel for the timing. I'm not a coach. I don't know how they feel about whether they feel that can be coached."
Cosell said he believes the Vikings' vast improvement in record – going from 3-13 in 2011 to 10-6 and a playoff entrant in 2012 – was not so much because of any improvement Ponder might have made but instead because of an incredible season by running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 2,097 yards, coming up nine yards short of breaking the all-time single-season record.
Cosell, a veteran of the film room who is not easily impressed, called Peterson's performance the single greatest offensive performance in NFL history.
"In some ways, because Peterson was so amazing, Ponder got a pass a little bit. I'm not sure, and I love Peterson – I mean, I love Peterson – but I'm not sure that they can ride that every year," Cosell said. "Peterson could have a great year next year and rush for 1,450, which would be a lot of yards fewer than he ran for this year and it would still be a great year.
"At some point, Ponder, it's not a matter of what he's asked to do – I love it when people say you've got to ask them to do more – he's got to execute better. In any offense, there are plays that are there that the quarterback's got to make. He's got to make more of those."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Analyst on Ponder: ‘Got to execute better'
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