Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ponder's Lambeau Experiences Not All That Frazier Suggests--Unless the Bar is Now on the Ground.

Minnesota Vikings' Coach Leslie Frazier announced today that Christian Ponder will be the Vikings' starting quarterback in Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.  In defending his decision, Frazier stated that Ponder has "had some success there" and "gives us the best chance to win."

While it might be true that Ponder gives the Vikings the best chance to win on Sunday, that estimate is meaningless for a 2-8 team and for a team without a starting quarterback.  That's embarrassing enough. More embarrassing, however, is Frazier's contention that Ponder has had success at Lambeau Field.

Ponder has played two games at Lambeau Field.  In 2011, he was 16 of 34 passing for 190 yards, zero touchdowns, and one pick.  The Vikings lost the game 45-7.  In 2012, Ponder was 12 of 25 for 119 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.  The Vikings lost the game 23-14.

Either Frazier and the Vikings are simply hoping that their weekly PR nonsense confuses enough to not cause unrest among fans or they have lowered the bar for what constitutes success so low that there is no hope.  Or both.

Up Next:  AP.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ponder Proves He is Neither an NFL Starter Nor Backup and Decision-Makers Prove Equally Inept

After fumbling the ball away and tossing two awful picks--one for a touchdown--Christian Ponder has more than twice as many turnovers as touchdown completions in 2013.  Despite those woeful numbers, the Vikings continued to see something in Ponder that nobody else on the planet, other than a few local scribes who forever give the benefit of doubt upon doubt to local team administrators.  Sunday's performance should put any doubts to rest regarding whether Ponder is NFL starting quarterback material.  He is not.  It should also put a spike in thoughts that he is a serviceable backup quarterback.  He clearly is not that either.

Ponder's three-year run in Minnesota has been so inept that Vikings' halftime voices were able to look at his 11 of 13 for 114 yard numbers and announce that Ponder had a "pretty good first half."  Those are not good numbers, they are just not damaging.  114 yards on 11 of 13 passing tells you everything that you need to know about Ponder.  He passes short, hopes for yards after catch, and does minimal harm but minimal good.  That works when the Vikings have a solid lead.  Clearly, it does not work when the Vikings trail.

When the Vikings got down big against Seattle--big for this Vikings' team being anything greater than a touchdown--Ponder was forced to throw outside the box on a consistent basis.  When he did, he showed what skills he does not have, throwing consecutive picks--not a good trait in a starting or backup quarterback.

After the game, Vikings' head coach Leslie Frazier acted stunned at Ponder's performance.  He ought not have been, as Ponder performed to his mean, with one additional pick tossed in.  We expect Ponder to throw a bad pick, fumble once, throw for 164 yards, and a touchdown.  That's his mean performance and it puts him near the bottom of the NFL.  It also puts him where one would expect in terms of overall starting quarterback record--13-20.

Frazier's puzzlement over Ponder's otherwise completely expected performance solidifies the notion that Frazier is not a good talent evaluator, or, at least, not someone willing to stand up to those who are making the decisions.  Frazier recently quipped that he long-ago learned that "if you are going to go down as a head coach in this league, you need to go down doing it the way you think it ought to be done."  Taking Frazier at his word, his best is not good and his management of the quarterback has been bizarre, at best.

The commitment to Ponder early in the draft was puzzling.  The further commitment beyond his first season was troubling.  Retaining that commitment into this season has been mind-numbingly obtuse and has set the team back at least three seasons.  Frazier's contribution to that commitment, no matter the level, is ground for dismissal, even were his many other inexplicable decisions--including, most significantly, putting together a coaching staff that includes Alan Williams, Bill Musgrave, Mike Priefer, and Mike Singletary--not so glaring.

As Frazier deserves to lose his job for putting together two of the worst seasons in Vikings' history, Rick Spielman also deserves to lose his job for his contribution to the mess.  In the 2013 NFL draft, the Vikings had three first-round draft choices.  They arguably selected three starters.  Only one of those three, Xavier Rhodes, has started this season, however, and Rhodes has started only because the starters have been awful and/or injured.  Either Spielman picked the wrong players or he has not exerted sufficient influence on the coaching staff to get playing time for first-round players in a season long-ago lost.  Either is inexcusable.

Beyond the 2013 NFL draft, giving Spielman every benefit of the doubt for his contribution to the triangle decision-making, he deserves credit for concurring in drafting Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Kyle Rudolph, drafting Harrison Smith and Matt Kalil, and concurring in trading for Jared Allen.  He also then gets saddled with at least concurring in drafting Christian Ponder, trading up to take Toby Gerhart, trading down to take Chris Cook, trading Percy Harvin in response to Harvin's dissatisfaction with Ponder's poor play, signing Josh Freeman, signing a backup quarterback who was run out of Kansas City, and amateurishly coaching Freeman during Freeman's first press conference.

On Spielman's balance sheet, however, no deficit is more glaring than his utterly unfounded commitment to Ponder as a starting quarterback.  From consistently changing the timeline necessary to assess Ponder's long-term prospects, to attempting to convince a non-believing, eyes-first fan base that they are seeing something that they are not, to the smug guarantees that he knows whats best and has some special view that those with eyes do not, Spielman is both tired and tiring.  It is time for him to go.

Added to these necessary changes, the Vikings need to begin to rethink their organizational philosophy, one that clearly attempts to spin every action within the organization and tell the fans that all is good and all is done for their benefit.  Spielman's whispered coaching of Freeman is merely a symptom of the overall problem that the Vikings confront with their fan base.  The current philosophy appears to be that if the team can control fan opinion, the product on the field will be good.  This is either plain moronic, beyond condescending, or both.

Up Next:  Seat Licenses and Changes.