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

health.

Ponder will need to go through the league’s concussion

testing. Frazier was asked why he wouldn’t declare Cassel the starter on

Monday.

“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

point.”

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

pro throughout.”

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

job.

“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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