Patrick Reusse of 1500ESPN.com had this same idea in August 2013 when he compared Christian Ponder to other quarterbacks. Well, now it’s my turn to add two cents and lay some tracks down this Ponder path.
Rich Gannon had a long 17 year career in the NFL as a quarterback largely due to his mobility and toughness. Ponder reminds me a little bit of Gannon in the fact that he can make plays on the run and doesn’t have the world’s greatest arm.
Gannon didn’t play much during his first three seasons in Minnesota, but he became the Vikings’ starter in his following three seasons. Gannon was a serviceable quarterback for the Vikings, however his stats in his first 42 starts for the Vikings, Redskins and Chiefs combined were nothing more than average at best. In his first nine years in the NFL, Gannon was 21-21 as a starter completing just 56.6% of his pass attempts while throwing for 49 touchdowns and 44 interceptions with a quarterback rate of 73.8.
Like a fine wine that improves with age, Gannon transformed into a very good quarterback at the age of 32. In his last two seasons at Kansas City and his final six years in Oakland he performed at his best. During that time frame, Gannon had a 55-35 record completing 61% of his attempts and throwing 131 touchdowns with 60 interceptions. Gannon won the NFL’s MVP award in 2002 as he guided the Raiders to the Super Bowl and the top rated offense.
Can Christian Ponder develop into a great NFL quarterback too? If he can hang around the league long enough, I think he has enough skill set to be able to pull off a “Gannon like” MVP season at some point in his career. And as for now, it appears the Vikings want to hold onto Ponder for a little while longer. GM Rick Spielman said Friday that he is anxious to see how Ponder looks under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner this off-season. “Christian will be here; I don’t anticipate anything — him not being here,” Spielman said, via Master Tesfatsion of the Startribune. “Right now we’re looking at quarterbacks, so we would say we don’t have the position solidified. I know Christian does have the physical abilities to do it, but for whatever reason things haven’t come together for him.”
Here are my top reasons why Norv Turner can make Ponder a better quarterback.
- Christian Ponder has the mental aptitude to be a great quarterback. One of the most important qualities Norv looks for in a quarterback is smart leadership. Guys who can grasp concepts, understand how to play the game and make quick decisions. This is one area that Ponder should have all the marbles to excel.
- Eliminating some of Ponder’s negative plays should be correctable. Ponder is a classic game manager who doesn’t take many unnecessary risks.
- Contrary to popular belief, I think Ponder is consistently accurate when throwing to certain parts of the field and to certain targets. Conversely, Ponder is also consistently and predictably bad when targeting other areas or players. Here is what I mean: If Norv can understand the things Ponder does well… and can game plan to his strength, he will be just fine. Let’s look at the numbers. Ponder connected with Percy Harvin over 70% (149 of 207) in 2011 and 2012. Ponder has connected with Jarius Wright over 64% (34 of 53) in 2012 and 2013. Ponder connected with Greg Jennings 60% (24 of 40) in 2013. Ponder has connected with Kyle Rudolph over 60% (88 of 146) during the last three years. Michael Jenkins over 61%. Cordarrele Patterson 57%. Jerome Simpson 50%. Devin Aromashodu less than 35%. I’m no rocket scientist, but I would say it’s easy to see, Ponder is good at moving around and hitting a slot receiver or tight end working open in the middle of the field. The numbers don’t lie, so I’m not going to sugar coat it either. Ponder is just not good at directing a quick-read west coast offense that targets a single split end wide reciever. BEWARE: Bill Musgrave learned that the hard way… it’s just not the recipe for success when developing Ponder.
- Ponder has never had to work for the starting job. Over the past two preseasons, the Vikings really just had Ponder going through the motions. This year things will be very different, Norv will push Ponder to play well in order to win the starting job. This could be a welcomed change that hopefully could bring the best out of Christian Ponder.
Go ahead and take the franchise tag off of Ponder. That’s no big deal. Go ahead and call him a first round reach… that means very little in the grand scheme of things. Ponder might even lose his starting job multiple times, and hear the boos along the way, but he will keep fighting. He will keep working. He will keep believing in himself. Yes, most teams will continue to want him on their roster. And, when his number is called, he will be ready to do what he does best—buy time with his athleticism so he can find the slot, flanker or tight end flashing open down the middle.
I’m no Ponder hater that’s for sure. As a matter of fact, I think Ponder could lead a very explosive, sexy passing attack under Norv Turner in Minnesota. Ponder has proven he is accurate and consistent when throwing to Harvin, Wright, Jennings, and Kyle Rudolph. Christian Ponder has connected with those players 295 of 446 targets. If my math is correct, his career 66.1% completion rate to those targets is an outstanding accuracy mark for a young quarterback. Norv is a bright offensive coach, if he thinks he can build around Ponder’s ability to play in the NFL, I’m all in.
The biggest question mark I see with Ponder is his durability. Can he stay healthy? It’s the one issue Norv will not be able to fix.
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