EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Decisions, decisions, decisions.
After another dismal performance from quarterback Christian
Ponder on Sunday that led to a benching, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier
is left with another decision at quarterback this week. Frazier wouldn’t say
whether Ponder’s time as the starter was done when he spoke with the media on
Monday afternoon, but made it clear he’s entertaining another switch.
“I just want to talk that through a little bit this
afternoon and when we come back on Wednesday have a good idea,” Frazier said.
As Minnesota’s season has spiraled down, Frazier has been
stuck with a near-weekly decision regarding his quarterbacks, but he’d stuck
with Ponder through four straight starts, especially after he led the team to a
win in Week 10 against Washington. Yet, Ponder committed three turnovers on
Sunday in a 41-20 loss at Seattle.
So Frazier is going back to the drawing board and wouldn’t
commit to a quarterback for next weekend’s game at Green Bay. Matt Cassel
replaced Ponder on Sunday, but isn’t guaranteed to ascend to a starting role.
The Vikings likely could go back to Josh Freeman, to see if he can provide some
stability at the position.
“Not so much from Josh,” Frazier said of the decision, “Just
trying to determine what’s the best thing to do based on where we are and what
we’re trying to get accomplished. He’s doing everything we’re asking him to do.
He’s working hard in practice. He’s preparing properly. We just have to see
what’s the best thing to do.”
Before Ponder seemed to seize the job in back-to-back decent
performances against Dallas and Washington, Frazier said the starting job was
between Ponder and Freeman and said Cassel wasn’t being considered. Cassel has
served as the backup the past four weeks and seen action in the past two games.
Ponder started 9-of-13 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown
in the first half on Sunday and then went 4-of-9 for just 15 yards passing in
the second half with two interceptions, before being pulled for Cassel in the
fourth quarter. Ponder’s past two weeks demonstrate his career in a microcosm,
a mix of promising play and wild inconsistency and injuries.
“He did some good things early in that ballgame, but you’re
always looking for consistent play throughout a ballgame,” Frazier said. “You
can’t win in this league playing one or two quarters. You’ve got to play four
good quarters of football. We just need all of our players to play well
throughout the game. He didn’t play as well in that fourth quarter as we needed
him to. We needed more consistent play and we didn’t get it. The results of it
put us in a tough spot.”
Ponder’s interceptions were thrown right to Seattle defenders
on Sunday. After the game, Frazier said he had to talk with Ponder to see why
he threw the second interception, which went right to Seahawks cornerback
Walter Thurmond and returned for a touchdown.
“After looking at the tape, I have a better idea of what he
saw,” Frazier said. “Still don’t agree (with) where the ball went. But I do see
what he was looking at.”
Cassel entered and was intercepted on his second pass after
it was tipped at the line of scrimmage. As a team, the Vikings threw three interceptions
in a span of 3 minutes, 54 seconds of game clock and seven offensive plays,
equating to 17 points and turning a 24-13 game into a blowout.
Cassel was 5-of-13 for 78 yards with a touchdown and an
Freeman could see his first action since his rough Minnesota
debut in Week 7. Two weeks after signing with the Vikings, Freeman was 20-of-53
for 190 yards and an interception in a loss to the New York Giants.
Freeman suffered a concussion in the game and was held out
the following week because of the concussion. He returned to practice, but
Frazier stuck with Ponder. Frazier defended the team’s signing of Freeman on
Monday but didn’t say whether he’s in line to start.
Minnesota signed Freeman for $2 million for the rest of this
season, hoping he might be the answer as they search for a long-term solution
at quarterback. The signing represented a chance to see if he could become the
franchise quarterback he once was believed to be in Tampa Bay.
“It can be a challenge for sure, but no regrets about
signing Josh,” Frazier said. “I’m glad he’s a part of our team, and we look
forward to him contributing to our team. But no regrets in that regard; we knew
exactly what we were doing when we made the decision, and I think it was a
great decision for our team. It’s hard to not take advantage of that
opportunity based on where we are.”
Since he’s been with the Vikings, coaches have worked with
his drop in the pocket and mechanics. Freeman has struggled with accuracy at
times throughout his career, particularly in his first game with Minnesota.
He’s the league’s lowest-ranked passer in terms of quarterback rating (52.6)
and completion percentage (42.9 percent).
Frazier said reworking Freeman’s mechanics haven’t been the
reason he hasn’t played since his debut.
“We’re doing some things before and after practice to help
with some things that we want to help him with to be a better quarterback and
help us on the field,” Frazier said. “That’s a part of it. We do the same with
all our quarterbacks. Nothing out of the ordinary.”