For years, the Minnesota Vikings have been looking to draft a quarterback and groom him to be the franchise savior that leads them to their first Super Bowl victory (after four gut-wrenching losses). Since 1999, the Vikings have put forth these men to lead the franchise under center (prepare yourselves, this is laughable): Jeff George, Randall Cunningham, Brad Johnson, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn, Gus Frerotte, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, Donovan McNabb and now, Christian Ponder.
Well, Culpepper had one or two good years and Favre and Cunningham were each seconds away from Super Bowl berths, even in their geriatric stages, but were undone by a field goal — thanks, Gary Anderson, for using your one miss of the season on a chip shot to go to the Super Bowl — and an interception (Favre throwing an INT? No way!).
Now year three begins of the Ponder experiment, and after his most recent preseason performance (1-2, 15 yards, 1 INT, 35.4 QB rating), you’d have to be delusional to believe the Vikes have found their guy yet. Now don’t get me wrong, Ponder closed the 2012 season pretty well with a few good games down the stretch before getting hurt, and if he plays all of 2013 like that, then there won’t be an issue about who’ll be the quarterback, because Ponder will still be the guy.
But if Ponder plays like he did most of last year (skittish is the word that comes to mind), then the Vikes will be looking once again at finding a quarterback in the first round. The 2014 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks isn’t quite up to par of 2012 (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson), but it’s definitely a heck of a lot better than 2013 (E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, crickets).
Tahj Boyd (Clemson) will be an option. He’s a terrific young talent who has a good arm and some wheels underneath him. Granted, he’s had some elite pass-catchers (DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins) helping him out, and he’s got a ton of mileage carrying the rock, but he’s a good leader and wins games.
Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) has been the media darling ever since leading the Cardinals to a Sugar Bowl victory last January. He’s the exact opposite of fellow elite gunslinger Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) in that he’ll never be in headlines, except for his accomplishments on the field, which are vast.
Speaking of Manziel, he’s another name that will be mentioned in the first round of next year’s draft, but it probably won’t be as high as it could be simply based off merit. His escapades off the field have shockingly overtaken his robust achievements on it, and now he’s viewed as a project in need of a mentor. No denying, though, the kid has an almost supernatural field awareness, and is one of the best pure playmakers we’ve seen at the position in some time.
Don’t get me wrong, Ponder may in fact be the guy. Or Matt Cassel might catch a second wind. But if either of those two guys don’t completely sell Rick Spielman and co., then the Vikes are going to be buying high next April. The pieces are in place to win now for either of the two guys — Greg Jennings, Cordarrell Patterson, Kyle Rudolph, good offensive line and the best running back of our generation. But even if Spielman decides to stick with talent over need, this year’s QB class is deep enough to where he won’t have to necessarily trade up into the top five or even top 10.
Whatever else happens this year, we’ll know one way or another if the Vikes are going to be in the market for a new quarterback or not. Or else Adrian Peterson will continue wasting the prime years of his career on further mediocrity under center.