Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder had his worst game of the season in Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals, going 8-for-17 for 58 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He has now thrown six interceptions over the past three games after going the first four games without an interception.
Ponder has been bothered by a knee injury over the last few weeks, which has coincided with his performance decline and may be causing accuracy issues he did not have for the most part earlier in the season.
It’s also fair to mention Ponder has now made just 17 NFL starts, which is obviously just a little over a full season of experience. So his body of work is not great, despite the overall overreaction of fans to his performance in a positive or more recently negative fashion or the criticism of the play calling by Vikings’ offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
So how does Ponder’s first 17 starts compare to some others in recent league history? I have taken a sampling of some signal callers to get an idea of how the second-year man out of Florida State compares at this stage of his career.
I will first offer Ponder’s numbers in his first 17 starts, then look at the numbers of some others.
Christian Ponder- First 17 NFL Starts (2011-2012)
301 completions, 501 attempts (60.1 percent), 3,246 yards, 22 TD, 19 INT
Brett Favre- First 17 NFL Starts (1992-1993)
344 completions, 539 attempts (63.8 percent), 3,564 yards, 20 TD, 17 INT
Aaron Rodgers- First 17 NFL Starts (2008-2009)
358 completions, 564 attempts (63.5 percent), 4,222 yards, 29 TD, 13 INT
Peyton Manning- First 17 NFL Starts (1998-1999)
347 completions, 608 attempts (57.1 percent), 4,023 yards, 28 TD, 30 INT
Eli Manning- First 17 NFL Starts (2004-2005)
265 completions, 520 attempts (51 percent), 3,297 yards, 24 TD, 18 INT
Drew Brees-First 17 NFL Starts (2002-2003)
338 completions, 559 attempts (60.5 percent), 3,486 yards, 19 TD, 18 INT
-Ponder, as well as both Mannings, started a fairly significant amount of games as a rookie with Peyton starting his epic consecutive start streak Week 1 of his rookie season in 1998.
-Brees was replaced by the San Diego Chargers with Philip Rivers, who coincidentally was drafted the same year as Eli Manning (2004).
-The only quarterback on this list who did not start any games during his first three NFL seasons was Rodgers, and he of course was blocked from the starting job in Green Bay by Favre.
-Rodgers and Peyton Manning are the outliers here in terms of production through their first 17 starts, but the difference there is Manning started right off the bat in his rookie campaign while Rodgers made his first career start in Week 1 of his fourth season.
So what, if anything, can we take from this brief comparison of Ponder to some notable quarterbacks at the same point in their career?
One, 17 starts is a remarkably small sample size in the context of the career of a good NFL quarterback that has some longevity. It just so happens all of the other quarterbacks on this list, sans Ponder, have won Super Bowls and in the cases of Brees, Eli Manning and even Favre it would have been hard to predict that based on the production they displayed over their first season-plus worth of starts.
Ponder is obviously not as accomplished as the quarterbacks I’ve compared him to, and he would do very well to be on any list with any of them as his career goes on. But he also obviously has not been in the league as long since he is only nearly halfway through his second season, and the Vikings clearly entered the 2012 season in rebuilding mode despite their current 5-2 record.
While Ponder may never be among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, it clearly takes some time to establish that level and it is wrong to just say he does not have what it takes to reach that point right now. The current Vikings’ regime is committed to him as their starting quarterback, so that is one big positive in Ponder’s corner.