Christian Ponder - Grading his 2012 Regular Season



I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, we just witnessed Christian Ponder’s "coming out" game against the Packers last Sunday. Four weeks ago, most of us here (myself included) had thrown Ponder to the wolves and could no longer support him as the unquestioned QBotF. But perhaps we collectively bailed on him too soon. Ponder has had some good games this season to be sure, but he’s also had some downright awful ones. For as many flashes as he’s shown and great plays he’s made, there have seemingly been just as many head-scratching plays and moments to question Ponder as an NFL quarterback. And you know what? This is true of any young quarterback who is learning on the job. But last Sunday, with the playoffs on the line, Ponder came through for us. He played the best game of his career at the biggest moment of his career to boot. We’ve argued and debated Ponder’s play a lot on this blog over the course of this season, but now that the regular season is over, I thought I would take a look at his overall 16-game regular season effort. After his 10th game, I wrote up an analysis earlier in the year comparing his first 10 starts in 2011, to his first 10 starts in 2012 where I essentially called Christian Ponder an "average NFL QB", and noted that he had already shown progress from Year 1 to Year 2. I’m not sure that much has changed since then in terms of progression or evaluating Ponder, but I’ve done some research anyway, and I would like to present some findings in an effort to grade Christian Ponder's 2012 regular season performance.

So, first off, here are his overall 2012 regular season stats:








Rush Att

Rush Yards


Passer Rating














To put some of these stats into perspective, here are some facts from the 2012 season:

1. Ponder ranked 25th in the NFL in total Passing Yards

2. Ponder also ranked 21st in the NFL in total Attempts

3. Ponder ranked 31st among qualifying QBs in Yards per Attempt

4. Ponder was the 13th most accurate QB in terms of completion percentage among qualifying QBs

5. Ponder ranked 23rd in Passer Rating among qualifying QBs

6. Under ESPN’s "Total QBR" metric, Ponder ranked 17th among all qualifying QBs

7. Ponder’s longest pass was 65 yards, 26th longest in the league.

So clearly, Christian Ponder was not the worst QB in the NFL this season, nor was he the best. He landed somewhere in the "lower middle class" of QBs in the majority of these overall statistics, and definitely was in the bottom half of the league overall. But this doesn’t really tell the whole story of Ponder’s 2012 season. We also need to consider the number of good games vs bad games he had, as well as how the season progressed from start to finish. I really like the Passer Rating formula as a way to boil down a quarterback’s playing abilities as a pure passer. While it’s not a perfect measure, it’s still pretty good from an efficiency standpoint. While I don’t particularly like ESPN’s "Total QBR Metric" it does do a decent job of considering other statistics, like rushing yards, turnovers and wins, and there isn’t really another reliable formula out there that does that. So, I put together a little chart that maps out Ponder’s Passer Rating and Total QBR for each week of the 2012 season. And as you can see in the chart below, both rating systems essentially tell the same story:


(click for larger image)

Based on these metrics, Ponder’s 2012 season is pretty obviously one that was "up and down". You could make a case for one gradual regression in performance as the season went along from games 1 through 9, followed by one large progression as the season ended from games 11 through 16, but even that isn’t 100% accurate. His Week 8 and 10 performances buck that over-arching trend. It’s probably safer to say that he had an up and down season.

That’s all well and good, but what about his good games vs bad games? Well, if you’re unfamiliar with Passer Rating, then I highly recommend this article detailing the history and development of the Passer Rating formula. According to that article, the formula was designed so that the results would mimic grades in school. A score of 90-100 would be similar to an ‘A’, and anything above 100 is regarded as exceptional. In terms of career passer ratings, the formula works great, because with a minimum qualifying 1500 pass attempts, no one has scored better than 100 in career passer rating in NFL History, with the exception of Aaron Rodgers, who is still playing. Many have had single seasons averaging better than 100, but few have been able to maintain that over the course of an entire career. So, for our purposes anything that is an ‘A’ or ‘B’ should be considered a good game. In other words, a passer rating of 80 or higher is good, and anything above 100 would be exceptional. Anything that is a ‘D’ or lower should be considered a bad game. Or in other words, a passer rating of 69 or lower is bad. Therefore, anything between 69 and 80 qualifies as neither good nor bad and would be just "average." As a side note, when the formula was developed in 1970, a passer rating of 66.7 was considered to be "average", but because of changes to the rules, and the passing game becoming easier and more common since then, 66.7 is no longer considered average.

Anyway, in an effort to be fair, I’ve also taken a look at QBR to gauge Ponder’s good vs bad games, and the results are similar to Passer Rating. This article explains the QBR formula very well, but in a nutshell, a rating of 70 or higher would be "good" for a single game, with 90 and above being exceptional. A rating of 50 is considered "average", while anything below 30 is considered bad. So, with that metric in mind, check out the following table for Ponder’s good vs bad games:

Passer Rating


Exceptional Games



Good Games



Average Games



Bad Games



The 5 or 6 bad games could be alarming, but when you consider the fact that this is only his 2nd year in the NFL (and first year as a full-time starter), as well as the lack of talent at the WR position, this isn’t necessarily something to worry about yet. The fact is, the majority of his games this year have been of the good or exceptional variety from a Pure Passer perspective, and the majority of his games in either metric have been average or better.

Another way to parse out his 2012 season is into quarters. Many NFL coaches like to divide the 16-game season into four quarters, just like a game. And if you do that, Ponder had an excellent 1st quarter, pretty mediocre to bad 2nd and 3rd quarters, and then finished with an excellent 4th quarter. And it was just enough to help this Vikings team make the playoffs. And that my friends, is enough for me to label his 2012 season as a success. It may not have been an exceptional season, but it was "good" from a pure passing perspective, and at least average or slightly better from a total performance perspective. Ponder is a young player (age 24), and there is still a lot of potential and room for growth. I’m excited to see how Ponder does in the playoffs this year, and ultimately how he progresses in 2013 and beyond, especially if the front office can give him some legitimate receiving weapons next season. What about you? Now that all 16 games of the 2012 regular season are in the books, how would you analyze Ponder’s 2012 regular season performance?

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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