Tuesday, November 27, 2012

And if Jermome Simpson Would Have Caught That Four-Yard Pass, Mitt Romney Would Be President

Those who went all in on Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Christian Ponder are finding it difficult to admit the apparent--that Ponder never will be the Vikings' savior.  Faced with admitting the error in their judgment or doubling down with nothing in the bank, many, unfortunately, are electing the latter.

The most recent manifestation of this myopic commitment to Ponder is the dedication to identifying all of the obstacles to Ponder's success over which Ponder purportedly has no control.  The offensive line is bad, the coaching stinks, and the play-calling is putrid.  These, not Ponder's shortcomings, are the reasons for the quarterback's poor performance this year.  But for these ills, Ponder would be holding the Lombardi Trophy this year.

Added to all of these obstacles is the flavor of the week for Ponder's entrenched supporters--his receivers cannot catch a pass.

Objectively speaking, the Vikings do not have one of the better receiving corps in the NFL.  But to argue that the Vikings are without receiving options greatly understates what is happening with Minnesota's receivers in a Ponder-led offense.

Among the Vikings' receivers are one of the better receiving tight ends in the NFL, Kyle Rudolph, one of the top slot receivers, Percy Harvin, a capable possession receiver, Michael Jenkins, and three players who each appear to have downfield ability--Devin Aromashodu, Jarius Wright, and Jerome Simpson.  And the Vikings have a running back that makes all of the receivers more open, more often than they otherwise would be.

Yet, based on reports from Ponder's supporters, one would think that the Vikings suffered an unusual spate of drops in the game against the Bears.  The facts, however, do not support this conclusion.  While dropped passes do not aid any quarterback, pointing the finger at these isolated plays misses both the fact that passes are part of every quarterback's performance.

Including dropped passes against Chicago, the Vikings rank only 25th in the NFL in passes dropped, with 17.  The three dropped passes on Sunday would put the Vikings marginally ahead of their season's pace.  Given that the passes were all short, the impact of dropped passes in the Vikings' system is even less apparent.

Dropped passes notwithstanding, few, if any, other meaningful statistics suggest anything other than that the primary source of the Vikings' passing woes is Ponder.

Green Bay has allowed 37 sacks, had a leading rusher with 302 yards, and a stable of receivers on IR.  Still, Aaron Rodgers has 28 passing touchdowns this year. New Orleans has a modest offensive line (21 sacks), a leading rusher with 341 yards for the season, a reasonable deep threat in Marques Colston, and a good tight end in Jimmy Graham.  Drew Brees has thrown 31 touchdowns this year.

On the other end of the spectrum, Arizona has allowed 47 sacks this year, has a rushing leader with 312 yards on the season, a leading receiver named Andre Roberts, and a revolving door for both offensive philosophy and quarterback.  Despite these shortcomings, the Cardinals have passed for 10 touchdowns this season.

Adrian Peterson leads the NFL with 1236 yards rushing--nearly 200 more than the number two back in the league, the Vikings offensive line is near the league mean in sacks allowed, and Percy Harvin is 28th in the league in receiving yards--despite missing more than three games.  Yet Ponder ranks 24th in passing yardage, touchdown passes, and quarterback rating.

What the numbers suggest and the eye test supports is that Ponder is an average to below-average NFL quarterback.  He does not make the players around him better, but he definitely makes one wonder whether any reasonable determination can be made regarding the offensive line or the receiving corps as long as he is behind center.

For Vikings' General Manager Rick Spielman, the question now becomes whether he is more committed to sunken costs in Ponder or in assessing the degree to which he ought to remain committed to his other decisions--Musgrave, Simpson, Wright, and John Carlson.

Up Next:  More Myths.


5 comments:

HBandM said...

So what's the solution, VG? Switch to Webb, make Ponder an out-of-pocket passer, or draft/trade a new QB?

vikes geek said...

HB,

The answer to that question depends on what the Vikings want to accomplish this year. If the team wants to compete for a playoff spot--something that every NFL team ought to want every year in a league that does not forgive the "rebuilders"--the team needs to let Ponder know that there is competition. That requires benching Ponder either as a starter or at some point in the game when the game is not yet out of reach. The easiest thing to do at this point is to let Ponder start and pull him if he puts in his usual non-chalant first quarter. Webb is the only option on roster, but Rosenfels is available.

Off-season, the Vikings need to simply move on. If they believe they have something in Webb, they will need to find out this year. Otherwise, Webb likely will no longer be an option. If the Vikings believe neither Ponder or Webb are the answer, they will need to bring in a veteran next year.

vikes geek said...

HB,

Though I am not convinced that Ponder is a legitimate NFL starter, I am certain that his prospects would be significantly improved if the Vikings let him be who he is--an out-of-pocket passer. That probably is the Vikings' best option at this point, though there is virtually no chance that the Vikings are sensible and flexible enough in their thinking to consider that option and permit it to happen.

Childress of A Lesser God said...

The problem with Ponder is a lack of confidence. He does not have great physical skills, but he supposedly is very bright.

But you can see from his body language that he just doesn't believe that he is up to the assignment. He fears failure and thus plays really really "tight."

He is thinking, not playing and simply is not convinced he can do the job - two terrible things for the Leader of the team.

VG is right: let Ponder sit and watch and see if that helps him. If not, move on.

In the meantime, the Vikings have a better chance of beating GB with Crazy Joe Webb running around wildly. That really screws up a defense. Webb can hand off to Peterson and overthrow passes as easily as Ponder.

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