The company line at Winter Park this week is going to be that the Vikings still control their own destiny, and that Christian Ponder will be the quarterback to lead this team to the playoffs.
While this is mathematically a possibility, the truth is that the Vikings playoff hopes died on Lambeau Field Sunday when Ponder nearly failed to throw for over 100 yards and had a pair of untimely interceptions that quite literally robbed his own team of hard earned points.
Sure, there are plenty of other things to point to that went wrong on Sunday. The referees (and I hardly ever resort to this) made a number of calls that left many wondering if Ed Hochuli plans to retire in Green Bay. Blair Walsh’s missed field goal in the fourth quarter was the nail in the coffin. Receivers continued to struggle to get open. Bill Musgrave once again failed to get Adrian Peterson a handoff, not even once, in the fourth quarter.
All of these things can be viewed as unacceptable, but none were more glaring than the horrendous display put on by Ponder against the team fans want to beat the most.
I can’t fault the Vikings staff for starting Ponder today, and I can’t fault them for starting him next week against Chicago, but their decision to keep Joe Webb on the bench following Ponder’s second interception has left me dumbfounded.
You want to be patient with young quarterbacks. You want them to learn from mistakes and learn how to rebound after committing them. You want to get a full season’s worth of game tape for evaluation purposes during the offseason. More than anything, you want to prove everyone else wrong and let him lead you to victory.
Still, with all of those things in mind, what was expected to be gained by keeping Ponder in the game?
Joe Webb has proven to be one the NFL’s best change-up pitchers in the NFL and Ponder gave absolutely no indication that he could win this game, even with Peterson’s ridiculous numbers. Webb, while not viewed as a viable long term option, should have been allowed to try and redeem the game and put the Vikings (and Christian Ponder) in a position to see postseason action.
Instead, the Vikings chose to place the “development” of their first round quarterback ahead of the team goal of winning a championship, and kept Ponder on the field only long enough to gain a few more yards against a prevent defense.
Whether the call was up to Leslie Frazier, Bill Musgrave, Rick Spielman, or even Zygi Wilf himself, 52 other players and an entire fan base had to suffer Sunday due to the irrational stubbornness displayed by the Minnesota Vikings.