Why Nobody Should Be Throwing Christian Ponder Under The Bus Yet

One thing that shocked and dismayed be a little bit in the wake of yesterday's loss to the Detroit Lions was how many people apparently want to jump on the "Christian Ponder stinks" bandwagon. Not so much here, but at other places. In Pro Football Talk's story about the game, they had this statement at the end.

The Vikings fall to 2-11, and the Lions improve to 8-5. And Webb showed enough to make Vikings fans wonder why the team didn’t simply make him the starting quarterback and use the 12th overall pick on Nick Fairley or Ryan Kerrigan or Adrian Clayborn.

(Warning. . .like most Viking-related stories on PFT, I wouldn't bother reading the comments section. . .lots of morons that cheer for other teams either a) making "Los Angeles Vikings" jokes or b) making it perfectly clear that it's more important to them that the Minnesota Vikings are bad than it is that their own team is good.)

My answer to that would be that unless Fairley, Kerrigan, or Clayborn can line up at cornerback, they probably wouldn't make a hell of a lot of difference to this year's team. And if they were playing cornerback for the 2011 Minnesota Vikings, they'd probably be injured by now anyway.

But that's not the point. . .the point is that, whether anyone likes it or not, Christian Ponder is this team's quarterback of the future. When he's healthy. . .and only when he's healthy. . .he should resume his duties as the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. And I think I understand the mentality that makes some folks want to bench him already or go with one of the flavors of the week from the 2012 Draft and ignoring some of this team's much bigger, much more pressing needs. I don't agree with it, but I think I understand it.

Many Viking fans over the years have gotten incredibly used to the "quick fix" mentality that the Vikings have employed at the quarterback position. The only "young" quarterback that the Vikings have attempted to "develop" in their recent history was Daunte Culpepper. While Culpepper started very early in his Vikings career, he had a couple of distinct advantage that Christian Ponder has not enjoyed to this point.

For starters, Culpepper got to sit for a season and actually take a look at how the NFL game works from the sidelines. Yes, he was a backup to Jeff George and the non-magical version of Randall Cunningham, but he still got that one season to sit back and just observe things. Second. . .and I can't stress this enough. . .Culpepper's first season as a starter saw him playing behind a great offensive line. Not a good offensive line, a great one. Todd Steussie, Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, David Dixon, and Korey Stringer (R.I.P.) were one of the best offensive lines this team has put together, and they're sure as hell a far cry from Charlie Johnson, Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Anthony Herrera, and Phil Loadholt. Yes, Hutchinson is going to be a Hall of Famer and Sullivan has improved a lot this season, but the current offensive line is nowhere close to what Culpepper got to play behind.

Lastly, Daunte had these two gentlemen to throw to named Cris Carter and Randy Moss. Both of those guys will be Hall of Famers someday (and, as we all know, one of them already should be).

But outside of Culpepper, a lot of the Vikings' recent quarterback history has been patchwork. Some of those players have been great (like Brett Favre in 2009 or Cunningham in 1998), some of them have been okay to good (George in 1999), and some of them have been downright awful (Brad Johnson in 2006). But all of them have been experienced quarterbacks.

I don't want to try to paint all Viking fans with the same brush here or anything like that, but it seems that too many fans of this team have gotten too used to the "quick fix" mentality and are either unable or unwilling to accept the ups and downs that are going to come with attempting to develop a quarterback for the long term.

Rookie quarterbacks have bad days. Rookie quarterbacks also have good days. In the first seven starts of Christian Ponder's career, he's given us both. He has thrown as many touchdown passes as interceptions (11 of each). He's out there behind an offensive line that is not great at pass blocking (and I'm being extremely polite there), without Adrian Peterson (he's now had almost as many starts without him as he's had with him), and with one passable NFL-caliber wide receiver (and a couple of tight ends that don't appear to be getting incorporated into the offense as much as they should). And, quite frankly, he's pressing. A lot. The Vikings' defense gives up 28 points/game. . .going out there knowing that you pretty much have to score 30 points to give your team a chance at winning will cause a young quarterback to do that.

Yes, rookie quarterbacks are going to have bad days, particularly if they're playing on a team that has clearly shifted into rebuilding mode. That's where the Vikings are and, for better or for worse, Christian Ponder is a part of that rebuilding process. Is he going to be the Vikings' quarterback for the next ten to twelve years? I would like to think that he will be, but I don't know that. You don't know that. Nobody knows that.

The one thing I do know for damn sure, however, is that seven NFL starts sure as hell isn't enough to say "yea" or "nay." I'm quite sure that the Minnesota Vikings see things the same way. This team is going to have a top three selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, barring a miracle. They're not drafting Andrew Luck. They're not drafting Matt Barkley. They're not drafting Robert Griffin III. They're not going to trade for Peyton Manning. None of those guys are going to be the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012. Christian Ponder is going to be the starting quarterback for the Vikings in 2012. Joe Webb will, in all likelihood, be his backup.

The rebuilding process is going to hurt. Dumping the guy that this team just spent a first-round draft choice on in favor of a new, "more exciting" option is just going to prolong the pain. Pain sucks, folks. The last two years have been plenty painful. I'm tired of pain. Give this guy a chance to see if he can be our own personal Dr. Feelgood.

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