In this case, the headline pretty much says it all. According to multiple team sources, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has confirmed that rookie Christian Ponder will start at Quarterback for the Vikings when they return home to entertain the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
This move does not come as a particular surprise if you’ve seen the first six games of the regular season. At 1-5, Minnesota is effectively out when it comes to playoff contention, which means that Frazier has the green light to start getting ready for next season, and that includes giving Ponder reps.
The larger question I think is “Why now”? I know that the Vikings’ record suggests that a change can and should be made, but I’m not so sure. Here is my thinking: Ponder definitely made a serviceable showing when forced into action last Sunday night in Chicago. He wasn’t great, but Coach Frazier and others recognized that his performance was about as good as good be expected under the circumstances. In choosing to start Ponder from here on out, though, Frazier may have set his long-term future up for dramatic short-term failure. Consider the following: because Ponder is starting NOW, it means that he has one regular work week to prepare for his starting debut against (of all teams) the defending Super Bowl Champs and Division Rival Green Bay Packers.
Remember what I said about the Packers last week? They’re not the team to be playing when you’re looking for “new beginnings”, and its likely that they’ll give Ponder a rude welcome to the league. After that game, though, it gets even dicier because now, in start #2, Minnesota will be asking Ponder to go on the road and play @ Carolina, which while they’re not a great team is no gimme game either. (And let’s be honest, there are NO gimme games when you’re 1-5, but I digress). There’s a great chance, folks, that Ponder will be 0-2 as a starter through no fault of his own simply because of the timing on this decision.
Now, consider the alternative – - waiting until after the Bye Week (Week 9) to start Ponder. I don’t think you can wait any longer than that, but even waiting that long ensures that you have the guy completely prepared to start, and although that start would be @ Lambeau, you’d still have plenty of time to get him ready. The tough thing for Minnesota is that the schedule is pretty tough from here on out, so there’s no great spot to “ease him in”. But waiting until after the Bye at least guarantees you that you have ample time to prepare a rookie for what he’ll be seeing against one of the top teams in football.
If the Vikings want to be successful, Ponder will need to get used to beating that team and the ones in Chicago and Detroit for years to come. Until he’s fully developed, a few growing pains in the short-term future are more than likely.
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