Holler: Ponder's stats have fans complaining

Christian Ponder (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today)

Fans look at Christian Ponder's games with less than 100 yards passing and are calling for his job. Meanwhile, the Vikings are outperforming outside expectations.

Few players have come under more scrutiny this season than Christian Ponder. It seems that two Vikings fans can't meet without Ponder's name coming up, invariably in a negative context. With impressionable youngsters viewing stories on this site, it's impossible to accurately reflect much of what has been said, but, in many circles, Ponder has taken on an inexplicable middle name his parents didn't give him.

The criticism comes at a time when Vikings fans could be giddy. Given the dismal franchise-worst 3-13 2011 season, most NFL analysts picked the Vikings to be somewhere in the stench-laden 4-12 neighborhood. Anyone who claimed that 8-8 was a realistic possibility was advised to cut the dose of their medication. The reality is that we are officially less than two weeks from Christmas and the Vikings are still in the playoff hunt.

While Ponder has struggled badly at times, perhaps the malaise with fans is based more on the success other young quarterbacks have had that magnified Ponder's ineffectiveness. There are always growing pains with young QBs, but when you look at the success that rookies Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have enjoyed, Ponder's regression this season has been highlighted even more. The sentiment is that the Vikings are winning despite Ponder, not because of him.

Head coach Leslie Frazier has been more than patient with Ponder, perhaps by design. The team got rid of veteran Sage Rosenfels during training camp to eliminate the veteran competition that could be facing Ponder, leaving Joe Webb and McLeod Bethel-Thompson as his backups. While Webb still brings that athleticism to the position, he hasn't been given much of a chance to operate the controlled offense of Bill Musgrave in game conditions. Perhaps that says something about his performance in practices, or maybe it's just an inflexible philosophy to stick with Ponder throughout the 2012 season, for better or worse.

Whether Vikings fans like it or not, Ponder has been the man all season and likely will remain the quarterback of the Vikings, whether he succeeds or fails, in the final three games. It would appear that, much like Brad Childress got locked into developing Tarvaris Jackson and the two were linked together, Ponder and general manager Rick Spielman would also seem to be defined as a pair. Ponder's success (or lack of it) will be tied in with Spielman's decision to draft him as well as clear out his competition.

If Ponder has a big game against St. Louis Sunday, the naysayers will be silenced for a while. If he struggles and the Vikings lose, the chorus to replace him will only get louder. There are a lot of perks to being an NFL quarterback. But there are also downsides and, unfortunately for Ponder, he is being viewed as the weak link on a Vikings team looking to make a postseason run.

WEDNESDAY NOTES

  • Jay Cutler wasn't the only Bear injured Sunday. Chicago placed kicker Robbie Gould on injured reserve Tuesday after he suffered a knee injury during pregame warmups Sunday. The team signed 39-year-old veteran Olindo Mare to take his place. Running back Michael Bush also suffered a rib injury that could keep him out Sunday.

  • Adrian Peterson is once again a candidate for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week after another big performance that has him getting closer to the magic 2,000-yard mark.

  • Safety Harrison Smith is a candidate for the Pepsi Max Rookie of the Week after his interception return for a touchdown against the Bears.

  • Hall of Fame coach John Madden has been handing out the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award weekly this season, honoring the unsung offensive linemen that helped their team succeed. He named the Vikings the Week 14 winner, the second time the Vikings have been so honored this season.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.


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