This seems familiar...
OK, this is going to start off with what might seem, on the surface, hypocrisy. Allow me to quickly state that the following piece should not be confused with Leslie Frazier's decision to play Adrian Peterson last Saturday, a sentiment echoed here earlier. You rest players when you are in the playoffs and the last game or two no longer matter; you don't rest players because you are out of the playoffs and the last game or two no longer matter. As I mentioned in my piece regarding the team's reaction to how Chris Cook has been handled, teams play for pride. You can sell a team that a game is meaningless and OK to lose when there's a future in the playoffs, because your pride isn't hurt. However, when a team is staring at the worst record in franchise history, and there is soon to be no tomorrow for several vets, that's not a message that will work. So, in conclusion, Frazier was absolutely right to play AP, results- horrific as they were- be damned.
That said- I'm not sure I agree with the apparent intent on playing Christian Ponder in the season closer against da Bears. Join me for more- Leap of Faith!
First off, hat tip to one Mr. Toby Gerhart for playing like a beast and proving me right when I say that he could start for many other NFL teams. That said, and with all due respect for a guy who might be our lead ball-carrier for a while longer, nobody's going to confuse him with Adrian Peterson anytime soon. When Peterson's 90% (if not 100%), you start him, because in the department he's the one who gives you the best chance to win a game.
Now, I'm not necessarily saying Joe Webb gives us a better chance to win Sunday than Christian Ponder per se, although recent performances might just give argument that he may. Regardless, however, of whether you're on Team Webb or Team Ponder, the truth is, there's no ‘world of difference' between the two like there is between Gerhart and Peterson. At this point, I'd say our odds of winning are roughly the same with either behind center. (Let the firestorm BEGIN!)
But there's more to it than that. Webb has, for the most part, remained relatively unscathed in his action for the Vikings over the last two seasons. He has, to the best of my knowledge, no injuries as of right now. Ponder? Not so much in either sense. The dude has been bashed straight to Hades recently on our behalf; furthermore, he suffered a concussion on Sunday shortly after AP's injury. And as we've been learning in greater and more disturbing detail, concussions are no joke. If anything, a concussion should give more pause than a knee injury. Repeated knee injuries certainly will cause a decline in personal life and health going forward, they may even leave you partially crippled. But it's concussions that leave you wandering the streets despite millions of dollars in the bank, not knowing who you are or where you're at. And even if they don't, they absolutely affect careers during their playing time- Kurt Warner has claimed that it was concussions that explained for his curious ‘slump period' between being a Rams superstar and a Cardinals superstar, a period when he was playing journeyman backup. And I'm inclined to believe him.
At this point, in this most meaningless of meaningless games (OK, granted, we have a chance to not get swept by the division, and can at least not tie the worst record in franchise history- but still, we can't even play ‘spoiler'), there's no logic playing a rookie QBOTF who has looked more and more shell-shocked every time he's on the field and just got his noggin rocked. The Bears are not a very good team right now- hell, they're downright awful since Jay Cutler's injury, and even more so with Matt Forte's. What do they have? Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher, and a decent pass-rush that has more than a chance of laying out Ponder a few times. Especially with our Pop Warner-level Offensive Line.
Without trying to really enter into the Webb vs. Ponder fray here, I will say that one particular reason I believe Webb has seemingly performed better than Ponder right now is his athletic ability to survive behind a porous O-line. Ponder is by and far the more ‘pure passer' type of QB- not a knock on Webb's arm or his passing skills (which have certainly taken a big step forward lately), but rather to point out that Webb is more the ‘dual-threat' QB: either it's a big pass or a big run. When the O-line collapses (inevitable), Webb always retains the option to take off, damn near AP style. Ponder has shown legs this season to be sure, but he won't be confused for Spiderman anytime soon- he's the QB who's first and second option is a passing play. And with our O-line, he's not often given a chance to get past the second option (should he even get so lucky as to get that far).
Sending a shell-shocked rookie who just last game was taken to the locker room concussed, especially again in a game that's 85% meaningless, is just lunacy IMO. I don't care how you do it- lie through your teeth and tell him he didn't pass his concussion test and isn't clear to play, so as to avoid hurting his ego or competitive spirit. Or tell him the truth and essentially challenge him for the future, letting him know his arch-nemesis is getting one final shot before the off-season to take that starting spot from him. (Arch-nemesis might be a tad too strong, as these guys seemingly have no problem co-existing on the team, but you get my point.) Again, I don't care. Just don't send Ponder out on that field and risk another concussion at this point. Send out Webb- it's not like we'd be waving a white flag by doing so, and again, Webb is far less likely to take any career-detrimental injuries in the process.
What say you, fellow Viking fandom? Is the team right to send Ponder back out into the trenches so soon, and with so little on the line? Or should Webb be getting the final game of the season?
Of course, regardless, we'll be on the 1 yard line when a blown facemask penalty costs us the game. Calling that now.