As a Vikings fan, yesterday’s 23-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers was hard to stomach. Adrian Peterson tore apart the Green Bay defense to the tune of 210 rushing yards, but the Vikings were only able to score 14 points. This was because of a simply awful output from the entire passing game, as Christian Ponder had under 50 passing yards when he stepped on the field with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Ponder ended up with a passing line of 12/25, 119 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. One of those interceptions was particularly egregious; Ponder threw a pass across his body into the end zone, and it went right to Packers safety Morgan Burnett.
It seems that patience on the part of Vikings fans has worn thin for Ponder. Many are calling for backup Joe Webb, and many of Ponder’s supporters are now becoming detractors. It seems that most have given up on Ponder becoming a good NFL QB.
Well, count me as one of the few stubborn fans who still thinks Ponder has a good chance to develop into a good quarterback in the NFL. Let me explain why.
First of all, quarterbacks generally don’t develop as quickly as people think. Too many are spoiled from watching the rookie performances of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, even though those quarterbacks are arguably the two top prospects since Peyton Manning. To illustrate my point, let me list the season statistics of four quarterbacks from the past:
Quarterback A – 56.1%, 6.3 YPA, 23 TD, 20 INT, 73.9 passer rating
Quarterback B – 57.6%, 5.9 YPA, 11 TD, 15 INT, 67.5 passer rating
Quarterback C – 52.0%, 6.4 YPA, 14 TD, 13 INT, 70.4 passer rating
Quarterback D – 62.5%, 6.0 YPA, 14 TD, 11 INT, 79.4 passer rating
The first question I’ll ask is – which of these mystery quarterbacks would you most want to have on your team, just by looking at those numbers?
Odds are good that you chose quarterback D. He has the highest completion percentage, best TD/INT ratio, and highest passer rating of the group. Who is this mystery man? Well, let’s first reveal who quarterbacks A, B, and C are.
Quarterback A is Eli Manning. Those numbers are what Manning produced in his fourth year as a quarterback, at age 26. That’s right – Manning was two years older than Ponder, and had two more years of experience, but still was struggling to be even mediocre in the NFL.
Quarterback B is Drew Brees. Now, Brees just had an awful game against the Atlanta Falcons, but you probably still think of Brees as one of the most prolific and successful passers in the NFL. Well, in his third year, at the age of 24, Brees had a season bad enough to motivate the Chargers to make a draft-day trade for Philip Rivers.
Quarterback C is the late, great Steve McNair. McNair didn’t play much in his first two seasons, but when he became the starter for the Tennessee Oilers in 1997, he only managed to complete 52 percent of his passes and almost threw as many interceptions as touchdown passes. By the way, McNair was 24 years old, the same age as Ponder.
As for quarterback D? Well, congratulations! You just chose none other than Christian Ponder. Yes, those are Ponder’s numbers this season. They’re not terrific, but compared to other quarterbacks of the same age, they’re actually pretty good.
Let me also take this opportunity to address those who support Joe Webb. All I want to ask is, what quarterback have you watched the last couple seasons? Because here’s a news flash for you – Joe Webb has not been that good. In fact, he’s been pretty bad. Webb’s career numbers are 57.9%, 5.6 YPA, 3 TD, 5 INT. That’s good for a passer rating of 66.6. Yes, I know, he runs the ball, but besides his 109 yard rushing game against the Lions last year, he hasn’t rushed for over 38 yards in a game. Give Webb an extended chance to be the starting quarterback for the Vikings, and he will be exposed as a poor passer very quickly.
A quarterback is an investment. When an organization decides to invest a first-round draft pick in a quarterback, that organization is making an investment in that quarterback for the long run. Sometimes, as is the case with Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, the investment pays off quickly. Other times, like with Eli Manning, Drew Brees, and Steve McNair, it takes a little longer. I can’t say with certainty whether or not Christian Ponder will pan out. But the Vikings have invested in him as their future, and the biggest mistake they could make as a football team and as a business is to give up on him too early.