This is a make-or-break season for Christian Ponder, a former first-round pick who has been extremely inconsistent since taking over as the Minnesota Vikings’ starting quarterback. If he struggles again in 2013, the team could be forced to look elsewhere under center.
That’s where Matt Cassel could come in.
Signed this offseason to provide veteran experience behind Ponder, Cassel has starting experience with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. However, over the past couple of seasons, his lackluster play forced him to fall out of favor in Kansas City. There still appear to be people around the league that think he can be an effective starter, though.
“If [Ponder] struggles, my sense is the Vikings wouldn’t hesitate to go to Matt Cassel,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said. “There are people around the league who believe Cassel is underrated – despite what many Chiefs fans might think – and that if given the opportunity, he would fare well in Minnesota.”
Even if Ponder flounders, it’s hard to imagine Cassel bringing anything better to the table. Just look at last season’s effort.
In nine games (eight starts), Cassel completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,796 yards, six touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also lost seven fumbles and took 19 sacks while finishing the year with a 66.7 passer rating. Meanwhile, Ponder completed 62.1 percent of his throws for 2,935 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while accumulating an 81.2 passer rating. By comparison, the two don’t even appear to be in the same category of quarterbacks.
Unless Ponder falls flat on his face in his third season as the Vikings’ starter, it’s hard to believe that head coach Leslie Frazier would pull the 2011 first-rounder for a subpar passer like Cassel. Then again, maybe Schefter knows something we don’t.
For now, Ponder’s job is safe. If he gets the Vikings off to a bad start, though, we could see Cassel make his way to the top of the depth chart. We’ll see what happens when the regular season arrives.