Sunday, August 19, 2012

More of Same Tells Us More of Same

The Vikings' booth was at it again on Friday night as the Minnesota Vikings took on the Buffalo Bills in another pre-season game.  Last week, Vikings' play-by-play man, Paul Allen, offered a mea culpa of sorts, regarding his frequent disparaging remarks about current backup quarterback Joe Webb.  PA stated that, after reviewing the game film, he recognizes that Webb had zero protection against the 49ers and that he had been unduly harsh about Webb's performance.

PA's discrete apology notwithstanding, there clearly is an odd movement afoot to cement in the minds of Vikings' fans the notion that Ponder is the clear-cut meritorious starting quarterback.  Perhaps the motive is to calm Ponder and see what he can do under ideal social circumstances.  Whatever the motive, it is beyond sophomoric.  But that has not stopped PA in his antics.

On Friday, after color man Pete Bercich gushed about yet another gush-worthy run by Webb and noted that, on a subsequent play, Webb had put the ball in the perfect spot for Devin Aromashodu, only to see Aromashodu drop the pass, PA felt compelled to yet again weigh in, commenting that Webb needs to make the pass.  Bercich, as if previously admonished, hesitantly agreed.

With Vikings' GM Rick Spielman in the booth, PA began a discussion on the quarterback position, gushing effusively over Ponder before starting in on his tired and completely out of place line that, to the extent that Webb is effective in the game, it is because he offers "a knuckleball."  Ridiculous metaphor for a ridiculous comment.  Spielman, who drafted Ponder early in the first round with Webb already on the roster, of course, agreed.

On the sidelines near the end of the game, former Viking linebacker and current sideline reporter, Ben Leber, also gushed about Ponder's performance.

Clearly, there is a concern in some quarters that Vikings' fans cannot process what they see and that Ponder needs coddling.  Again, this is both moronic and counter-productive--moronic for the obvious reasons, counter-productive because it actually encourages Ponder not to continue to push himself as though he had competition for the starting spot.

That's not an indictment on Ponder, who played well, but on his unsolicited handlers who apparently feel that this town is big enough for more Sid Hartmans.

Objectively, the Vikings had two respectable quarterbacking performances against the Bills.  Ponder's numbers playing with the first team and having the benefit of most of the repetitions in practice, were good--10-13 for 169 yards and a touchdown.  His loan blemishes were that he took two sacks.

Webb, too, played well.  Although his passing numbers did not approach Ponder's, Webb had three passes dropped by receivers, one likely touchdown negated by an impossibly missed mugging of the Vikings' receiver, and two rushes for a team-leading 64 yards.  Webb's timing was slightly off on a timing pattern, but not alarmingly so and not surprisingly so for someone who takes limited reps in practice.

PA can continue to attribute Webb's success to the "surprise" factor, but if Webb is still a surprise to opponents, then the Vikings likely can expect him to remain such a surprise for as long as he is in the league.  At some point, even PA will have to acknowledge that the "surprise" is actually ability.

Up Next:  Rookies and Free-Agents Who Should Make the Cut.  Plus, what to do at wide-receiver.

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