Frazier sticking with Ponder as Vikings QB
The only passes from Christian Ponder that didn’t sail over a
receiver’s head or bounce harmlessly out of bounds seemed to land
in the arms of a Green Bay defender just as the Minnesota Vikings
were approaching the end zone.
At one point, the beleaguered quarterback went nearly 39 minutes
of game action without completing a pass, rendering moot another
breath-taking performance from Adrian Peterson.
Yet through all the struggles, all the poor footwork and all the
back-breaking mistakes that allowed a winnable road game against a
division opponent to swirl down the drain, coach Leslie Frazier
stuck with Ponder. And he sticks by him still.
Frazier said Monday he never considered pulling Ponder against
the Packers and believes he is the QB that gives the team the best
chance to win against Chicago this week.
”It hasn’t come up any time this season where I thought we
needed to pull him out of a game,” Frazier said. ”That hasn’t
Frazier acknowledged such unwavering support, whether solely his
decision or a result of a directive from the front office that
drafted Ponder in the first round last season, has the potential to
rankle other players in the locker room – players who seem to be
held to a different standard of accountability.
”I’ve thought about that a lot because when you’re struggling
at a position, the guys know how we talked about everybody doing
their jobs and why it’s important for us to have our success,”
Frazier said. ”You don’t want to send mixed messages at any
The Vikings led the Packers 14-10 at halftime, jumping on
Peterson’s broad shoulders to move into position for a commanding
lead early in the third quarter when Peterson ripped off a 48-yard
run to the Green Bay 12-yard line. Ponder was intercepted in the
end zone on the next play.
With Percy Harvin missing his third straight game, Ponder didn’t
complete a pass to a wide receiver until late in the fourth
quarter. The putrid air game allowed the Packers to weather a
210-yard day from Peterson and a shaky performance from their own
offense to drop the Vikings to 6-6.
Ponder’s struggles were so glaring that Frazier was asked
repeatedly Monday about his reluctance to play backup Joe Webb in
the second half. Webb has provided a spark periodically over the
past two seasons, including games at Philadelphia in 2010 and at
Washington last year.
Frazier has shown a willingness to rotate players during games
at other positions, including safety with Jamarca Sanford and
Mistral Raymond, and right guard with Brandon Fusco and Geoff
Schwartz. But the coach said Monday he approaches quarterback with
a different view, one that values continuity above all else.
”I think there’s something there where in my mind you don’t
want to get into a situation where you’re not sure who your No. 1
is,” Frazier said. ”We believe that Christian is our No. 1. …
That being said, if things get to a point where your No. 1 is
really costing you some situations that could preclude winning, you
do have to do what’s best for the football team.”
It’s getting harder for Frazier to argue that Ponder remains the
right choice for the Vikings. They started the season 5-2 thanks in
part to Ponder’s steady play, but have dropped four of the last
five while he has crumbled.
Ponder entered the fourth quarter Sunday with just five
completions in the game, all on one drive. He finished 12 of 25 for
119 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. In this
pass-happy era of the NFL, Ponder has actually thrown for 76 fewer
yards than Peterson has rushed for over the last six games.
For a team holding faint hopes for a playoff berth, the
imbalance to the offense has been the biggest reason for its recent
The unwillingness to go to Webb, even temporarily, would seem an
indictment on the depth at the position. The Vikings cut veteran
Sage Rosenfels in favor of Webb and developmental quarterback
McLeod Bethel-Thompson, giving them three young and largely
unproven players at the game’s most important position.
Frazier said Monday the team is confident Webb would do well if
called upon. But he doesn’t see the need right now.
”We believe that Christian is going to continue to develop and
grow and be the quarterback that we all expect him to be,” Frazier
said. ”That being said, there’s a lot riding on this next ballgame
for our football team, and I’m sure there are a lot of guys looking
and wondering if we can get it done under the current situation. I
believe we can. I believe we’ll play better, not only at the
quarterback position but at other positions as well. We’ll need to
as a team.”
NOTES: Frazier said DE Jared Allen would get an MRI after having
back spasms, but expected him to be ready for the Bears. … C John
Sullivan has bruised ribs that are considered a minor injury, and
it’s still too early to say if Harvin’s sprained left ankle will be
ready to go this week.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and
Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: