Sunday, January 20, 2013

In Off-Season, Ponder Continues to Do What Vikings Ask of Him

The presumption was that it would not take long for local scribes to begin revising the Vikings' season that was.  For the record, it took not even two weeks.  After that brief period, these wise men have already deemed the window shut on the collective memory of the Vikings' fan base.

On Sunday, the West Side locals journeyed to the land once primarily reserved for our elder statesman scribe.  No more.  With season ticket sales on the line and an opportunity to ingratiate themselves with Vikings' ownership, the WSSs have already begun cranking out new memories of Christian Ponder's heroic season.

To begin, the WSSs offer that Vikings' fans should be "excited" about the quarterback position next year.  Huh?  Excited?  Yes, you read that correctly--excited.  And if their editors had let them, the WSSs probably would have put that in all capital letters followed by several exclamation points.

For the dismayed, objective observers who saw in Ponder one or two starter worthy performances in 2012, the WSSs are here to set you straight.  You saw more than that--much more, we are being told.  Not only did Ponder play "the best game of his career" in the Vikings' win over the Packers in week seventeen--a win attributable more to Ponder, according to the WSSs, than to Adrian Peterson's 200 yards rushing and the near singular attention that that drew from the Packers' defense--but the play continued his run of "strong" play to end the season.

In the good old days, prior to internet and easy access to statistics, tripe like this likely would slide.  Thank goodness we are no longer in the good old days.

In Ponder's last four games leading up to the Green Bay game to end the regular season, Ponder was not good or even marginal.  Rather, he was bad.  In fact, he was the definition of a sub-replacement level quarterback, holding his position out of front office stubbornness and fear of the unknown.  In those four games, Ponder threw for 119, 91, 131, and 174 yards with 2 touchdowns and three interceptions.  Those numbers put Ponder at the bottom of the league in passing and had established NFL talent assessors remarking that Ponder was the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.

In week 17, with Adrian Peterson drawing all of the Packers' defensive attention, Ponder mustered 234 yards passing and three touchdown passes with zero interceptions.  By Ponder's standards, those numbers were fantastic.  By NFL standards, they were merely mediocre--and certainly not even remotely cause for suggesting that Vikings' fans should be excited about Ponder being under center next season.  

As Ponder was putting up his "marvelous" numbers in week 17, 15 NFL quarterbacks threw for more yards than did Ponder.  None of those quarterbacks had Adrian Peterson in the backfield.  None of them even had a 100-yard rusher.  And more than half pulled off their accomplishment without the benefit of a marquee receiver or a 100-yard receiving performance.

Vikings' fans long have deserved better coverage of their team than is routinely offered by local scribes who have insisted on cheerleading the team rather than offering objective analysis that might offend the ticket seller.  This weekend's pablum by the WSSs surpasses even the traditional level of suspension-of-disbelief-requiring analysis, however, venturing into the utterly absurd and patronizing.

Up Next:  Vikings Need Harvin More Than He Needs Them.


Peter said...

I haven't tried this exercise with any other QBs (and maybe it would make Skelton look decent... yikes), but I took the 8 games I liked best from Ponder's year and pro-rated them across a full season and got these results:

535 attempts
370 completions
69.1% completion rate
3,818 yards
7.1 yards per attempt
26 TD

I think the Vikings can win with that kind of play at QB.

Does this mean I'm swallowing what the media is selling? No. But I can find reason for optimism within the stats to counter much of the pessimism I already have from simply giving Ponder the eye test all last year.

vikes geek said...


I think you are correct. . . about making Skelton look decent. If you take the best eight statistical games of any almost any starting QB's career and pro-rate them over a full season, you will have some decent numbers. What I suspect will frighten you more, however, is that what you find decent is actually pretty bad. Given the eight best performances of Ponder's career, pro-rated over one season, he does not even average 2 TDs a game and is under 4,000 yards passing? How will Ponder do without Harvin? Without Peterson? Aaron Rodgers had 39 TDs and 8 picks with 4200 yards passing last year--without playing with the statistics. His best eight games, pro-rated over a full season? That would have net Rodgers 60 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Those are the numbers you expect a first-round starting QB to someday achieve. I don't see Ponder remotely touching those figures.