Yesterday, Eric broke the news that the Minnesota Vikings are. . .once again. . .going to give Christian Ponder the start at quarterback. While this was largely met with the calm, measured reaction that has marked all of our discussions about the quarterback position this season so far, it's certainly enough to give one pause and wonder what, exactly, is going on at that spot with our favorite football team.
In an effort to figure out exactly what the deal is, I'm going to put together what I've been able to ascertain. Your mileage may vary, as always.
Leslie Frazier is incredibly loyal, and it's going to end up getting him fired
destruction to come back again
Loyalty, in most circles, is a pretty admirable trait to possess. There are times when that can even be the case in the National Football League. When you're a 2-8 football team that struggles to throw the football, being loyal to your quarterback is potentially fatal. But, Leslie Frazier has decided that Christian Ponder is, in fact, his guy, and that if the ship is indeed going down, Frazier is going to be playing Gilligan to Christian Ponder's "Skipper."
Some folks will take this as a sign that the Vikings are "tanking" or "giving up" on the season. We've already covered the simple, undeniable fact that NFL teams, and professional sports teams in general, don't "tank," so such talk is pretty ridiculous. I firmly believe that Leslie Frazier thinks that Christian Ponder gives the Minnesota Vikings the best chance to win football games. . .and, quite frankly, there's a pretty good chance that he's correct. However, we're now at the point where that says a great deal more about the other potential options than it does about Ponder. Lest I be labeled as a "Ponder supporter" at this point, I can say that not only has that ship sailed, but it's already hit the iceberg and is rapidly taking on water.
Christian Ponder probably is the best quarterback on the 2013 Minnesota Vikings roster. At this point, that label is slightly more prestigious than being the best professional surfer in Liechtenstein.
(And, yeah, the "being in love" part of the video there might be a little much. But the lyrics fit otherwise. Work with me here, people.)
Matt Cassel was brought in to be the backup, and that's exactly what he is
Remember when the Vikings were trying to decide who was going to start the game against the Dallas Cowboys about a month ago? And that Leslie Frazier said that the choice was down to either Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman and that it would definitively not be Matt Cassel? That pretty much says it all about Cassel's status on this football team. He's the backup quarterback, and that's what the Vikings see him as. If he isn't going to be backing up Christian Ponder, he's going to be backing up Josh Freeman.
For this, he's being paid more than Ponder and Freeman. Combined. And he's not even remotely getting consideration to be the starter, because it's been determined that he really has no future in Minnesota, either, beyond the end of his contract after the 2014 season (if not before then). There's not really a whole lot more to be said about Matt Cassel at this point, so let's move on to the other side of this triangle.
The Josh Freeman signing appears to be a tremendous waste of money and time
I liked the signing of Josh Freeman at the time that it happened. I liked, and still like, Freeman's physical ability. I also felt that, given the opportunity, he could be at least a short-term answer at the quarterback position for the Vikings. I'm not sure if it's something that Leslie Frazier has seen in practice or something that Bill Musgrave has seen or if they were just put off by the crap fest that was Freeman's one start at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. But here's the thing. . .
If you're not going to Josh Freeman now, you're not going to Josh Freeman at all, barring a season-ending injury to Christian Ponder.
Yes, Freeman has still only been a member of the Vikings for about six weeks, and there's a chance that he's still getting adjusted to the playbook. If that's the case, I'm not sure if that's a positive. This is Josh Freeman's fifth season in the NFL, and by this point you'd think he's seen a lot of stuff. Yes, Josh Freeman has a big arm and everything else, but if you're a quarterback on a team that's currently at 2-8, has a cumulative quarterback rating lower than any team that doesn't play its home games in Jacksonville or at MetLife Stadium, and you can't get on the field?
Yeah, that's a problem. . .and I don't know where the disconnect is. Maybe Freeman looks horrible in practice, maybe Leslie Frazier doesn't want to play the guy, maybe he kicked Bill Musgrave's dog one day. . .I don't know. Nobody else seems to know, either. But I think that the fact that Josh Freeman is not starting this Sunday at Lambeau Field says a lot. I'm not entirely sure what it says a lot about, but it certainly says a lot about something. Honestly, the Vikings could have just kept McLeod Bethel-Thompson around and had all of the same issues they're having right now, only with a guy that's a complete unknown rather than just a relative unknown.
So, that's where we stand with the quarterback situation in Minnesota. At this point, there really aren't any "good options" remaining. This team will have to roll for the rest of 2013 with what they've got. . .and, as a result, heads are going to roll in Minnesota at the end of the season, and a new regime (presumably with a shiny new quarterback) will be installed in their place. Since the team isn't going to "tank" to get there, we'll just have to see where the chips fall after the final week of the regular season.