Christian Ponder started his fourth consecutive game under center for the Minnesota Vikings against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, despite suffering a dislocated left shoulder against the Washington Redskins in Week 10, and his performance in a 41-20 loss (13-for-22 for 129 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions) has his future with the team up in the air once again.
Ponder’s lackluster early season performance and a rib injury against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3 led to the Vikings signing Josh Freeman, who had been released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Freeman started his first game for the Vikings in Week 7 against the New York Giants, two weeks after signing, and did not look good on a national stage (20-for-53 for 190 yards with an interception). Then reports surfaced Freeman suffered a concussion in the game, and he has not played since despite being deemed healthy.
With a 2-8 record and evaluation for 2014 likely to start in earnest, should Freeman get another start soon?
The Vikings will travel to Lambeau Field to take on the rival Green Bay Packers in Week 12, which could be a favorable situation for Minnesota. Green Bay has lost three games in a row to fall to 5-5 on the season, and Scott Tolzien would get another start if quarterback Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) misses another game. Add in a defense that has been depleted by injuries in recent weeks and is simply not playing well, and Sunday’s game could be more competitive than expected.
Vikings’ head coach Leslie Frazier will surely be evasive in his public comments regarding who his starting quarterback will be in Week 12 and beyond, but Ponder has done nothing to deserve another start in what has become a lost season. His shoulder injury is a convenient excuse for his performance against Seattle, for those that want to focus on it, but if he had performed better and more consistently when supposedly 100 percent healthy there would be good reason to stick with him.
Matt Cassel led the Vikings to their first win of the season, but it’s clear the team has no intention to re-insert him into the starting lineup and he is not a part of the future. Freeman has now had a month to get more comfortable with Bill Musgrave’s offense, so if he is healthy and there’s nothing behind the scenes to prevent him from playing there is no reason for him to not to get another chance.
If Freeman does not at least suit up in Week 12 against the Packers, the decision to sign him will be called further into question as the season winds down. He needs to play in games, despite general manager Rick Spielman’s assertions that they can get a feel for Freeman’s ability during the week. Even if he does not start or even get in the game on Sunday due to perceived concerns over playing in a tough road environment, there is no reasonable excuse (apart from a hidden injury) that can be offered for Freeman not to start the following week against the Chicago Bears at home.
I though the move to sign Freeman was good for the Vikings as they attempt to find a viable quarterback, and I’m willing to give him a mulligan for his performance against the Giants since he was put into a no-win situation with minimal preparation. If Freeman never gets another chance this season, be it in Week 12, Week 13 or after, Spielman and Frazier should both be fired for the decision to sign him and then never use him after that disastrous debut.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.