Monday, August 26, 2013

Ponder and Musgrave Travel in Time

The forward pass in professional football dates to 1906.  From 1906 until the late 1970s, professional football in the United States very slowly evolved from a run-first philosophy to a pass-run mix.  In the the 1980s, the forward pass quickly overtook the running game as the primary mode of offensive playcalling in the NFL.  With substantial rule changes aimed at increasing the safety of high paid players and increasing fan bases through greater offensive shows, the NFL quickly became a pass-first league with few teams relying on the running game for rushing yard production and increasingly more teams relying on running backs for screen plays and blocking in pass situations.

The Minnesota Vikings have taken the least logical step in the progression of the passing game, putting all eggs in the 1950's basket.  Sunday night's pre-season performance was merely a microcosm of two plus years of this system, with quarterback Christian Ponder passing for an improbable 117 yards on 17 completions--approximately seven yards per completion, including yards-after-catch--and Ponder and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave conspiring to offer the shortest of short passing games in the history of the forward pass.

Of his twenty-three passes on Sunday, two were beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage.  Two.  That is how a quarterback completes seventeen passes for a mere 116 yards.  And that is how one of last year's NFL playoff teams risks missing the playoffs this year, despite having the most dominate rushing back in the modern era.

For Vikings' fans, the record is past broken.  With a functional offensive line, a dominate running back, and a respectable defense, the Vikings have one of the more complete teams in the NFL, but for the quarterback.  Unfortunately, quarterback play generally dictates the fortunes of today's NFL teams.  And based on Ponder's continuing check-down performance, that increasingly bodes negatively for the Vikings.

The truly bad news for Vikings' fans, however, is that, in spite of other positive no-brainer decisions in the draft, Vikings' General Manager Rick Spielman persists in foisting upon the team and fans a stubborn notion that Ponder will evolve into something that he is not.  Spielman desperately wants this result because he bet heavily on Ponder and has continued to cheerlead for the signal caller.  Objectivity requires a different view.  Objectivity required that the Vikings bring in true competition for Ponder, rather than Kansas City's cast-off.  At most other positions, linebacker and receiver excepted, Spielman appears to possess such objectivity.  But, presented with Adrian Peterson's most productive seasons of his career and the approaching the end of Kevin Williams' and Jared Allen's careers, Spielman remains stubborn.

We have seen such stubborness in Vikingland during the regimes of Mike Tice (Randy Ration) and Brad Childress (Tarvaris Jackson).  We now face the same with Spielman's unwarranted love affair with Ponder, an affair adopted either by choice or by force by Vikings' head coach Leslie Frazier.  Favre offered a reprieve from Childress' obstinancy.  The only conceivable savior from Spielman's obstinancy appears to be Peterson rushing for 3,000 yards.  That seems improbable this year and increasingly so each passing year.

Up Next:  Dayton's "Tough Talk" on Stadium All About Show.

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