Christian Ponder took the helm of the Vikings 6 games into the 2011 season after Donovan McNabb stunk up the first third of our schedule. We experienced a pretty dismal remainder of the season under the helm of a new QB who was just entering the NFL. Our team had a new coaching staff, new QB and a deflated team morale after seeing the coming and going of the Silver Fox(Favre) and the less-than-impressive reemergence of McNabb.
2012 was Ponders first season as starting QB and, by any NFL standard, making the play-offs in your first season is noteworthy. Ponder was a lot more successful than we give him credit for. We forget that Ponder went 4 games without an interception. He and Percy Harvin established a rhythm that was one of the few shining points in our offense. Harvin's incredible amount of all-purpose yardage was a direct result of Ponder learning to trust his best route-runner. Once we lost Harvin, we had to rely more heavily on Peterson. Our receiving core, without Harvin, wasn't getting the job done. Ponder had a humbling 6 game stretch in which we had to deal with the limitations of our team. We had receivers that created absolutely no separation and a new QB who was not confident in throwing the risky passes after a string on INT's that cost us wins and rocked his confidence.
This season is a whole different story. Coming off two incredibly successful drafts, we now have a revitalized and talented roster. Added to the receiving core is Jennings, a veteran, who will bringing so much skill and leadership to the team. We have a healthy Simpson, Wright and Burton who are looking to show up this season. (Wright who didn't see many passes last season with Harvin dominating the field.) We have a ProBowl MVP tight end, a MVP running back, a Defensive Line that has several contract-year players that are out to prove themselves and a Offensive Line that is starting to settle into themselves. (I haven't even mentioned how down-right vicious our CB's and Safety's look!) What I saw in the OTA's and mini-camp is a team that is chomping at the bit to play. They are on board with Frasier and the attitudes on the field reflect that single-minded focus. (Spielman is right, the philosophy of "competition for position" is crucial for growth.)
I know this is long winded, but the point is Ponder has a lot more behind him now. He has the confidence of the GM, coaches and players. He is a capable, smart QB that will finally have the elements he needs to take a huge step forward. I'm not saying he isn't going to make mistakes. He will throw interceptions. All I'm saying is that he WILL stand out this year. He will have the offense he needs and hopefully a more confident OC in Musgrave to help him out (unlike last year).
Ponder is the question mark in everyone's assessment of our team. I think Ponder's response will be that, not only will we take the division, we are going to make a significant run this year. This young Vikings team is going to be the bedrock in the new direction of the franchise and will set us up for years to come. SKOL Vikes!!