Leslie Frazier not ready to name a starting quarterback
Will Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman get the start, or will they be watching from the sidelines again?
By BRIAN HALL FS North
MINNEAPOLIS --Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier stood at the podium following Sunday's 35-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers and said he had no idea who would start at quarterback next week.
Two weeks earlier, before the bye week, Frazier said Christian Ponder was still the team's starter, despite Matt Cassel's success in leading Minnesota to its first win of the year.
Much had changed in those two weeks. Ponder returned to health, but was demoted in favor of Cassel. The Vikings also went out and signed Josh Freeman and will give him a chance to start when he's picked up the team's offense.
After another loss Sunday that moved Minnesota to 1-4 and all but ended any faint playoff hopes, Frazier said he didn't know who would start when the Vikings go to New York next week to play on Monday night.
"Yeah, I want to go back and evaluate what Matt did in this ballgame and then make a determination as we go this week," Frazier said when asked if he was undecided about his starting quarterback.
Cassel was 32 of 44 for 241 yards in Sunday's loss with a late touchdown pass to
Kyle Rudolph. But after avoiding the costly turnovers in his Minnesota debut against Pittsburgh, Cassel threw two interceptions on overthrows of receivers. Ponder, now relegated to backup duty, didn't see the field on Sunday.
Freeman was inactive this week and Frazier wasn't sure if he would be ready to go in a week, with two weeks in the team's system after signing on Monday.
"Not sure, we'll take a look when we get with him this week and see where he is," Frazier said of Freeman's readiness. "We've done some things with him this first week. We'll see where he is when we get together this week."
While he confirmed the decision had been made earlier in the week, Frazier didn't announce the decision until Friday to start Cassel. Frazier has waited until Friday to name a starter before each of the past two games. The decision the previous game was because Ponder was dealing with a fractured rib.
Cassel could have made the decision to switch again very difficult. Minnesota offense couldn't sustain drives Sunday and Cassel had two turnovers leaving the situation up in the air again.
"You know what, I don't know," Cassel said when asked if he would start in New York. "I hope I am. I think that this team is going to turn this thing around and I would love to be the starter and compete and do all the things I'm going to do, but at the same time the coach makes the decision, so we'll see."
Frazier, as he usually does, said he wanted to watch the game again and re-evaluate Cassel's performance. Cassel was sacked three times. His first interception, on Minnesota's first drive of the game, came as he was pressured up the middle and overthrew his receiver.
"Take a look at the tape tomorrow and evaluate his entire body of work," Frazier said. "It's tough for any quarterback when you're under the stress and duress that he was under at times. He has to play better, there's no question about it. We'll take a look and see how his entire body of work was when we watch the tape tomorrow."
Rudolph, who had his biggest game of the season with nine catches for 97 yards and the touchdown, isn't sure if another switch is coming.
"I don't see why," Rudolph said. "I think Josh needs some time to get comfortable here, learn the offense . . . That's coach Frazier, that's (offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's) decision. That's not ours and we feel like every goal that we have set in August is still attainable."
Cassel, meanwhile, heads into another week without knowing if he will start again.
"It's the same as always," Cassel said. "I've got to get prepared, be ready to go and be accountable. We'll see what happens. We'll see what decisions are made. Again, just like the last three weeks, I never know what's going on until I'm told by coach. Similar to what it's been the last three weeks, we'll see."
Injuries on defense: Minnesota allowed Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to pass for 242 yards, complete 20 of 26 passes and a 143.4 quarterback rating. The defense also had three players unable to finish the game.
Frazier said linebacker Desmond Bishop, who started for the first time since signing with the Vikings before training camp, suffered a knee sprain. Safety
Harrison Smith has a turf toe injury and cornerback
Xavier Rhodes has an ankle sprain.
All three will have magnetic resonance imaging tests to further diagnose the extent of the injuries.
"Hopefully we won't lose those guys for any extended time," Frazier said.
Minnesota had just gotten cornerback Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford back from injuries, after the two starters missed the last game against Pittsburgh.
Disappointment reigns: Minnesota was coming off its bye week and playing at home against Carolina, which also entered the game 1-3. The breakdowns offensively and defensively had players searching for answers after the game and a listless effort after the Panthers led in time of possession with a 36 minute, 27 seconds of offense compared to 23:33 for the Vikings.
"I want to go home and throw up, honestly," defensive end Jared Allen said. "It's just embarrassing. That's one of the worst home losses I've ever had. And if I've had worse, I don't remember them. It was just blah, it was just bleh. You look up and you're getting throttled."
Adrian Peterson added: "I am surprised. It was definitely out of sync. We didn't play Minnesota football today, either side. Special teams did pretty good, but we seemed pretty flat today."
Peterson was asked if he was frustrated, pissed off or surprised. "I guess a little bit of all that. But you've got to gather and get all those thoughts and those feelings together and get back on track some type of way. I feel like we have the right men in this locker room, on this team, to be able to get back on track and get going."
Frazier, whose teams have now been outscored 108-27 coming out of bye weeks, took blame for the preparation.
"It's a tough one," Frazier said. "You're coming out of the bye and playing at home, you expect to play better and we didn't handle situations very well today. Poor job on my part getting our guys ready to play and play better. And we got to get them to play better. So we got a task ahead of us, myself and the coaches, to get our players to play better than we played today."