During the 2011 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected former Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick with hopes of him becoming their quarterback of the future. Since then, Ponder has experienced plenty of ups and downs in his short, three-year NFL career.
As a result of not being able to assert himself as the Vikings starting quarterback in 2013, the team re-signed Matt Cassel and selected Teddy Bridgewater in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, leaving his future with the Vikings in doubt.
While Ponder has experienced his fair share of struggles during his short NFL career, he has had some success as well. His career record as a starting quarterback may be an underwhelming 14-20-1, but he was the quarterback of an under-the-radar Vikings playoff team in 2012.
Many will credit Adrian Peterson for the Vikings making the playoffs in 2012, and rightfully so, but Ponder did have a solid season that year. In 2012, Ponder threw 18 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions for a hair under 3,000 yards, while completing 62.1 percent of his passes. Ponder also rushed for over 250 yards and scored two more touchdowns with his feet.
Peterson may deserve most of the credit for the Vikings’ 10-6 record in 2012, but he was not the one responsible for the three touchdown passes and game-winning drive against the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 that thrust the Vikings into the playoffs. Unfortunately, this Week 17 matchup against the Packers was really the last time Ponder excelled at the NFL level.
After missing the Vikings’ playoff game with an arm injury in 2012, Ponder put together a terrible 2013 season filled with unmet expectations and injuries. Ponder finished the 2013 season with a 2-6-1 record as the Vikings’ starting quarterback, lost his job to Cassel, and forced the Vikings into rethinking who their quarterback of the future is.
This season, Ponder will struggle to even remain on the Vikings’ roster, as many have suggested that being cut or traded by the team is his inevitable future. However, new head coach Mike Zimmer has not only stated that the quarterback position will be an open competition, but that he does not see a problem with rostering three quarterbacks.
As one would assume, Ponder will compete with Cassel and Bridgewater for the Vikings starting quarterback gig. Similar to his career, Ponder has had an up and down summer with the Vikings. Early on, he struggled with accuracy and decision-making, with reports surfacing that he was frequently throwing “wobbly” passes into the arms of defenders.
As of late, however, Ponder has shown improvement, reportedly completing passes at a higher rate and making better decisions, especially during seven-on-seven drills.
Regardless, it appears as though Ponder would appear third on the Vikings depth chart if it were released today, given that both Cassel and Bridgewater have been receiving more snaps with the first-team offense. Although Zimmer has stated that the quarterback position is up for grabs, it appears that the competition is truly between Cassel and Bridgewater, with Ponder simply along for the ride.
In the unlikely circumstance that both Cassel and Bridgewater are either injured or struggle, there remains a slight possibility for Ponder to regain his starting role with the Vikings. However, it is far more likely that Ponder is released, traded or wearing a headset on the Vikings’ sideline this season than this coming to fruition.
Expect to see Ponder riding the pine this season if he remains on the Vikings roster. If he does end up being released or traded, expect him to assume a role as a capable backup for a contending team that has a starting quarterback with a comparable skillset such as the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams or Kansas City Chiefs.