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.


SupaFan said...

Sadly, I cannot agree with you more. But truthfully, I have to admit I was excited when the organization drafted a quarterback in the first round. They offered something that we as the fan base haven't had since Cullpepper, hope. In a long term franchise QB, and that was torn away along with his ACL.

What is it that has been missing since then? Strength and stability at the top. I place the the blame for this squarely at the feet of Mark Wilf. beginning with the Triad of Power debacle, enough said about that. Successful organizations are run with a regimented higherarchy of order with everyone answering to someone. From coach, GM, President, to owner and finally to the ticket holders
In short there has been a glaring lack of accountability in the team.

On the up side, I do believe that the correct structure is in place. I also believe that the coaching staff in its entirety will be replaced. And I am somewhat hopeful that the GM position will see turn over.

I am very interested in listening to others speculate as well as offering my own opinion as to who will fill the up coming vacancies.

No matter who fills the empty offices in Winter Park during the offseason. One thing I am quite certain. The Vikings will draft a QB in the 2014 draft and whomever the Quarterback of the future is I will once again be filled with hope.

Childress of A Lesser God said...

I would immediately fire Fraiser and Spielman after the last game of the year (a la Tice) and start from scratch. I know how it ended in KC, but I would give Scott Pioli a second chance as the new GM and let him select his coach. He did draft the framwork for the current 9-1 Chiefs.

Fraiser's "I want to do it my way" comment is bizarre coming from him. If true, Fraiser's way apparently is to do nothing but hope for the best. Use the same vanilla approach in all phases of the game and simply hope against hope that, although it has failed before, it will, somehow, work next time. What a knuckle head. If he really wanted to go down fighting he would fake a punt or a field goal or run a halfback pass or something other than what has failed again and again and again. Death, taxes and "Viking football": the only certainties in American life.