Once upon a time there was a dude named Christian Ponder who had had a rough few years with the Vikings. So rough that he would be a free agent after the upcoming season. The Vikings had decided not to have him stick around for a 5th icky year.

“I didn’t expect them too, honestly,” Ponder said Wednesday at Minnesota’s annual charity playground build. “How things went down, the offseason, last year, I expected that it wasn’t going to happen. It was for my benefit. I would like to have that guarantee, but it’s not even a guarantee to stick around, unless I’m injured or whatever. It has my options open after the season. I have leverage to stay here or go somewhere else where there’s a better place for me to play. We’ll see.”

Christian Ponder might still have great season. That would mean the Vikings would want him to stick around, and that would be fine by me. Some people act as if even giving him a chance would be revolting. Are they scared of him being good and him staying? Unless we’re on a winning streak with Bridgewater, I say give him a chance this season. If he’s good its obvious he stays around.

But even Ponder doesn’t think this is a true reality.

“If I play this year, have the chance to play this year, or if I’m somewhere next year, we’ll see. There’s always improvement that I can make and that’s what I’m trying to do right now.”

Tell me something I don’t know.  I think Christian Ponder has finally figured out there is still room for improvement. Those improvements better add up fast because he has only a few months until a new season, and one last chance.

Photo above by Joe Bielawa.

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2 Responses

  1. Kurmudge

    The differences between the Vikings vis-a-vis Ponder and Bridgewater are significant- regardless of the differences between the two players’ natural talent, where BridgeH2O clearly has an edge. But consider this (which I had posted at Vikings Territory: http://vikingsterritory.com/2014/analysis/is-christian-ponder-the-next-rich-gannon)
    Every QB has strengths and weaknesses, and for every natural first-year wonder such as Andrew Luck and Tarkenton, there are 10 who need to marinate on the bench before they are ready to blossom. Ponder is the second type; Teddy has a chance to be the first type.

    Looking back at 2011, the Vikings have done absolutely everything right with Bridgewater, and they did absolutely everything very wrong with Ponder. Now, this does not speak of the core capabilities of the two players- Bridgewater’s college record and video record is clearly better in virtually every area related to NFL success except two- raw IQ as measured by the Wonderlic (and this measure is not particularly self-evidently that useful), and athletic size/running ability, where Ponder has a much more sturdy physique. It is interesting, however, that the more frail-appearing Bridgewater missed much less time due to injury in college than did Ponder, and Ponder has continued to be struck by the games-missed injury bug every year as a pro.

    However, the environmental differences are stark.

    o Pre-season advance preparation- in 2011 the CBA job action prevented any work, in 2014 every opportunity is available.

    o Coach competence- an offensive coordinator with a proven track record of success and personnel flexibility (now, vs. Musgrave).

    o Coach self-assurance- Musgrave had a need to showcase his own genius; growing a QB was an element of that need; Norv Turner has nothing to prove other than to develop his son’s resume as a coach.

    o Offensive line/protection- 3 of 5 spots on the line were marginal or worse (LT, LG, RG), today this is a solid, and well-above average line.

    o Receiving corps- Michael Jenkins, Berrian, Aromashodu, and Shiancoe compared with Jennings, Patterson, Simpson, Wright, and contract-year Rudolph? No further comment needed.

    o Running back and “box” predictability- under Musgrave, Peterson ran predictable plays on 1st and 2nd down, then left the field for 3-and-usually-long, inviting the front 7 and safeties to crowd the box and knife into the backfield; it seemed like Peterson either lost 3 yards or, occasionally, ran for 20. But there didn’t seem to be nearly as many of 3rd and 4 plays as there were 3rd and 14.

    o Solid veteran QB mentor(s)- Donovan McNabb, still trying to show off (and getting cut in the middle of the year after campaigning to be released) compared with “good guy teammates” Cassel and Ponder.

    There were minor improvements to the receiving corps in 2012, but everything else was worse, particularly the coaching and QB mentor situations.

    Teddy Bridgewater will end up succeeding in accordance with his ability, but his odds of doing so early are immeasurably enhanced by his far better post-draft situation.

    So what about Ponder? Is he a noodle-armed, receiver-staring, gutless wonder who needs to be run out of the league as fast as possible, as is suggested by some deluded “fans”?

    His history is that of a talented, smart, athletic football player with a good-enough but ordinary-though-low-velocity-NFL-arm, who is almost too coachable. And the opposite of a SOB with his teammates, leading some (“fans”) to say that he is a bumpkin unable to lead. Every one of these traits describes the 1990 version of Rich Gannon. Ponder will probably need to go elsewhere to achieve this, as other players also have- Gannon, Trent Green, Drew Brees, Chris Chandler, Kurt Warner, etc.

    But he is likely to make it eventually, because his weakest characteristics are the type that get better with experience. Right now, he has had his former nervous OC pound everything into his head at the same time instead of simply letting him go out and play football, the result being that you can see Ponder thinking too much on every play, and believing that he has to be the one to make all the pass plays work. That gets in the way of instinctive reaction and athletic performance. When alternatives become more reactive and result from muscle memory, instead of a need to process too many variables in each situation (staring down primary receivers tends to be a response that tries to limit the alternatives), the gunslinger instinct is released but within a range of experience with what a player understands works better for him.

    That is when they start to “get it” and really play. I expect Ponder to be a much better QB than Cassel at the same age.

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