One of our most favoritest topics around here is the news surrounding our failed first round pick and current third string quarterback, Christian Ponder. I mean, lord knows I'm constantly dying to hear how he's doing, what's new with him, all the latest gossip!
But in all seriousness though, there has been a fair amount of discussion regarding his future with the team. In theory, having him as a third string QB seemed like we had the best third stringer in the NFL. Look, for as much vitriol as is fairly thrown towards his on-the-field performance, the kid has actually won legit NFL games against legit NFL teams with legit QB'ing performances. (San Fran and Green Bay round 2 in 2012, in case you were wondering- and it's a rather fair thing to wonder.) I honestly cannot think of another third string QB in the league who can claim that, except maybe Rex Grossman (guy has had to have had at least one or two legit NFL wins based off of his merits, right?) who is still a pretty old guy. Ponder has that claim PLUS youth.
And of course, with talent exceeding the position/ depth chart ranking, one would therefore also figure him to be pretty good trade bait. I mean, good lord, Blaine Gabbert netted a seventh round pick- and Ponder is better than him. Like, probably considerably better. It's slightly surprising that no team has made any offer, or if they have that Spielman hasn't bit. (Although he IS a master wheeler-and-dealer, so maybe he thinks he can up an offered seventh to a sixth, or something of that nature.) The one thing Ponder has in undeniable quantity is smarts... maybe not ‘quarterbacking smarts' but certainly a mind that can grasp film room details, and therefore make himself quite valuable in that manner as a primary backup QB. (Remember, a backup QB isn't always just someone to fill in in case of injury, they're also often asked to help ‘coach' the main QB from the sideline/ film room with what they're seeing.) Overall, Ponder should be a rather desirable backup QB.
Howevah. All reports from camp indicate a guy who has completely lost his spirit, and has been putting together an absolutely putrid camp performance. Arif mentioned him screwing up a walk through pass for G-d's sake, which isn't something you'd expect from a third string QB who should only ever be a third string QB. Much less from a guy who could make for one of the more valuable backup guys in the league.
All this has me feeling that Ponder isn't likely to be valued by any teams for any role this season. You don't want a backup who shows up, sulks, and doesn't even try in practice. Some have argued that all he needs is a chance in scenery, which may well be true- but as a GM, do you want to take a risk that that's really all that's behind his malaise? Especially when you're being asked to give up a draft pick to find out? It's entirely possible that Ponder is simply sick of the NFL overall and just wants to go do something else now- broadcasting, commentating, stay-at-home dad, who knows. If a team trades away a seventh and gets him in that state, that's a huge loss for said team.
And of course, if we know about these reports, GMs are naturally just as aware. And it likely didn't help that Ponder didn't see a single snap in our second preseason game. Granted, that makes perfect sense for us- we wanted Cassel and Bridgewater to get as many as possible to a.) help sort out our QB starter questions and b.) help both guys become as secure with our offense as possible. We know what we have in Ponder, and we also fully know he won't be starting (barring a horrific one-two injury punch at QB, knock on wood) why bother giving him snaps at this point?
And with that question comes the natural follow up: why bother having him at all? Sure, again, in terms of depth you really can't find a better third stringer out there. If both your first and second string QBs go down, you want a guy who at least has some NFL winning experience trotting out there. But at this point, would he just do what he's done in camp- NGAF and just barely go through the motions? At the least, you'd hope to have a third stringer who is hungry for a chance and will try their 100% best within their own abilities to make it happen. So, the whole ‘super invaluable as a third stringer' theory may be well out the window.
And in terms of keeping him as trade bait, I outlined above why that might be crashing and burning. Sure, I could see Spielman at first holding firm to raise his price, but he likely didn't anticipate Ponder taking that price tag and lighting it on fire. It's vaguely possible a team, pre-trade deadline, will find themselves at desperate straits with QB and decide that a seventh round pick is an adequate risk to take Ponder. But that naturally relies on a lot of "luck" (I use quotes because I don't want to refer to injured NFL players as luck, but lack a better word) and circumstances that we can neither control nor even predict.
It's possible that one might argue that we lose nothing by keeping him, but 53 roster spots are an invaluable thing in the league, and coaches covet each spot dearly. Right now we're seeing a bit of a log-jam at the bottom depths of four different positions- WR, CB, S, and LB. Keeping Ponder means you're making one more tough choice there than may be necessary. Remember, many teams only keep 2 QBs on their active roster- and we could find someone to stash on our PS in the event of a true emergency. Keeping Ponder may mean we're cutting a guy like Larry Dean (good ST), Mike Mauti (potential at LB), Rodney Smith/ Adam Thielen (potential at WR), or any one of the CBs/ Safeties who might make an impact, however small. Any player that can make an impact, even if it's just for one single special teams play in the season, will likely have a greater impact than Ponder will.
So again, I wonder- why keep him?
As for right now there's no reason not to, sure. But we're approaching the first cut-down. I'd maybe argue he should be kept past that as continued trade bait, but if teams are not biting come the final roster slashing, I'd go ahead and chalk him up to a bumbled draft pick and just move on.
What say you, fellow Vikings faithful? What should Ponder's grand finale as a Minnesota Viking be?