Ponder must go: Vikings need more than just ‘game manager’
The NFL is a pass-first league, unless you’re the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are a run-first—or more accurately a run-only—team for two reasons. One, they have the best running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson, who is playing the best football of his career after recovering from a torn ACL. Second, Christian Ponder is apparently not capable of throwing the ball further than ten yards down the field, and even those throws are often misguided. To put things bluntly, the Vikings will have wasted what is likely to be the best year of their future Hall of Fame RB’s career on a quarterback who has proven his incompetence, young as he may be.
Today’s NFL requires more than just a game-manager at quarterback, even with an elite running back lining up in the backfield. The 2009-2010 Minnesota Vikings are an excellent example of what a good quarterback can do for a franchise with a solid defense and a star running back. Statistically, Brett Favre played the best year of his decorated career with the Vikings that year. AP was able to balance out Favre’s excellent play with a 1,400-yard year and 18 TDs on the ground. The result was a trip to the NFC Championship game and just a few key plays away from a Super Bowl appearance.
While Peterson is having a career year in 2012-2013, it has come more out of necessity than simply play. He has always been capable of a year like this one, but just never needed to play so hard to give his team a fighting chance. Ponder has given the Vikings very little to work with. His connection to tight end Kyle Rudolph has shown promise at times yet has lacked the consistency to constitute a threat to opposing defenses. Defenses are afraid of Adrian Peterson, not the Vikings.
There are many fixes to be implemented in Minnesota, but they should start first and foremost at the QB position. Ponder is inexperienced, but he has been given a gift in Minnesota and he has made the very least of it. In fact, if he was even just a game manager the Vikings would likely be in the heat of a tough divisional race rather than sinking to the bottom of it.
Today’s QBs are coming out of the draft more NFL-ready than ever. Take a look around the league. What if the Bengals’ Andy Dalton were at the helm in Minnesota, or even the Eagles’ rookie Nick Foles? It’s hard not to think the Vikings would be much better off with either of these young QBs. When this season finally wraps up, the Vikings will have a tough lesson to learn from, and they can’t afford another year to learn it.
Ryan Jasurda is an NFL writer for TPF and can be contacted at RJasurda@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com.