Leslie Frazier avoids naming a starting quarterback
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Matt Cassel signed with the Minnesota
Vikings off a trying final season in Kansas City fully expecting to be the
backup quarterback for a team trying to make another playoff run.
Cassel, 31, was coming in behind Christian Ponder, who had
made 26 consecutive regular-season starts and helped Minnesota to a 10-6 record
and the playoffs the previous season. Much has changed since then, but Cassel
has been relegated to his same spot, as Ponder’s backup.
“I don’t know that question,” Cassel said Monday
in reference to not being given a chance to start. “Again, I don’t make
those types of decisions. At the same time, I’m not always in agreement with
what decision they might go. But at the same time, you deal with those
decisions. It’s probably a better decision to ask coach Frazier.”
Coach Leslie Frazier wasn’t ready to name his starter for
next week’s road game at Baltimore, despite Cassel entering for a concussed
Ponder on Sunday and going 20 of 33 for 243 yards passing. Frazier said Monday
all three of the team’s quarterbacks, including Josh Freeman, are in
consideration to start next week. Part of Frazier’s hesitancy is Ponder’s
Ponder will need to go through the league’s concussion
testing. Frazier was asked why he wouldn’t declare Cassel the starter on
“You could easily do that, but I think for us it would
be wise to talk things through,” Frazier said. “There’s no reason at
this point on Monday at 12:40 (p.m.) that we have to make a decision. We can
talk it through and do what’s best. But Matt did a terrific job in relief
yesterday afternoon leading our team to victory.”
Since going back to Ponder as the starter in Week 8
following an disjointed debut by Freeman, Frazier has maintained Ponder gives
the Vikings the “best chance to win” each week.
“Up until this point, it’s been purely on who gives you
the best chance to win on this Sunday, every decision that has been made
regarding our quarterback position,” Frazier reiterated Monday. “As
we go forward, we’ll see what happens, but up to this point that’s what it’s
been based on.”
Yet, Cassel led the Vikings to their first win of the season
in Week 4 and, coming on in relief of an injured Ponder, has finished each of
the team’s other two victories. Cassel’s play Sunday helped Minnesota survive a
big second-half push by the Bears offense to build a 20-10 lead. With Adrian
Peterson controlling the game on the ground, Cassel threw for more yards in the
second half and overtime than Ponder has in a game all season.
Cassel was 6 of 10 for 79 yards in driving the Vikings down
for a game-tying field goal with 20 seconds left in regulation. He was 3 of 4
for 38 yards passing in overtime. Cassel owns the team’s best quarterback
rating at 84.6 and is the only quarterback on the roster to throw for more
touchdowns than interceptions (five touchdowns to four interceptions). Cassel
and Ponder each have a 63.6 completion percentage.
And Frazier isn’t discounting the way Ponder played in a win
against Washington and last week’s tie at Green Bay.
“Well, you can’t, from my vantage point, just look at
that first half of yesterday’s ballgame,” Frazier said of Ponder, who was
3 of 8 for 40 yards passing on Sunday and was sacked three times. “You
take a look at his body of work from the Green Bay game, where he played a
pretty good football game. So going into this game on Sunday against Chicago, I
really felt good about the way he practiced, the way he played previously.
“And even for three quarters against Seattle, he played
pretty good football there. And the way he played against the Redskins the
prior week. So he had done some good things. Struggled a little bit yesterday
and gets the concussion. Matt comes in in relief and does a very good job, so I
don’t think you can totally eliminate things he had done up to that
Cassel has succeeded in his role as the backup and hasn’t
caused issues while dealing with his status.
“He’s been a pro,” Frazier said. “We’ve
definitely had some discussions about where he is and his role. But he’s been a
Cassel struggled through two final seasons in Kansas City,
where he missed time with injuries and eventually lost his starting job last
year because of a concussion. The Chiefs changed their coaching staff in the
offseason and Cassel was released.
He signed to be the backup to Ponder, and has fulfilled the
“Every season brings on their own adversities,”
Cassel said. “And at the same time, I’m just happy when I’ve had
opportunities at times, I’ve been able to contribute to this team and that’s
what my role is as a quarterback.”
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