When the Minnesota Vikings drafted quarterback Christian Ponder with the No. 12 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, I screamed at the television. I couldn’t understand why the team would waste a high-first-round pick on an injury-prone passer who had no idea what consistency was. Still, I gave the Vikings the benefit of the doubt; they obviously knew something that I didn’t, right?
Well, it’s been two years since Ponder landed in Minnesota, and I’m still not convinced that he has the necessary tools to be a franchise-caliber quarterback at the NFL level. The main problem that has kept me on the “doubter” side of the fence: Ponder’s inconsistency.
I can’t go off of his 2011 campaign, because, well, he was a rookie. In your first year under center, especially after being thrust into the lineup midseason, there are bound to be some mistakes. Despite the flaws, Ponder played with confidence and courage behind an offensive line that crumbled at the slightest hint of pressure. It was a bumpy start to his NFL career, but some promise was present.
When 2012 rolled around, I expected things to get better for the Florida State alumnus. With a year of coaching and a full offseason under his belt, Ponder was primed to do big things. The worst part of the whole situation was that, to start the season off, everything was going splendidly. The Vikings got off to a hot start in 2012, seemingly proving skeptics wrong; Ponder’s performance was a big part of that success.
And then his play began to waver.
After avoiding an interception through the first four games of the season, Ponder threw at least one in eight of the next nine games. During that stretch, the Vikings were 4-5. In that same timeframe, Ponder failed to break the 100-passing-yards mark in three games and completed only 60 percent of his passes. At that point in the season, it appeared as if the Vikings’ playoff hopes had already vanished, and the lackluster air attack was the obvious culprit.
Luckily, a four-game, season-ending win streak spurred by Adrian Peterson’s push for the record books snuck the Vikings into the postseason. Ponder had been bailed out momentarily.
As we all know, the Vikings were eventually bounced from the playoffs by the same team that allowed them passage to the postseason. Ponder didn’t play, and the Vikings’ offense sagged with an unprepared Joe Webb at the helm. An unexpectedly-successful season had come to a close, leaving many questions in its wake.
While Ponder may possess outstanding athleticism, confidence and a strong arm, his inconsistency and inefficiency have handcuffed the Vikings time and time again since he took over as their starting quarterback. Some might blame a lack of weapons, but it’s become clear that Ponder simply isn’t the long-term solution.
How long it’ll take the Vikings to figure that out, though, is still to be determined.