Backup QB an issue for VikingsBe careful what you wish for. Just a few short weeks ago, after a terrible loss at Green Bay, I advocated for Christian Ponder to be benched. Although I didn’t say it specifically, that sentiment suggested that I thought that Joe Webb could do a better job as Minnesota’s starting quarterback, and I know that I wasn’t the only Vikings fan to feel that way.
By: Casey Johnson for The Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Be careful what you wish for.
Just a few short weeks ago, after a terrible loss at Green Bay, I advocated for Christian Ponder to be benched. Although I didn’t say it specifically, that sentiment suggested that I thought that Joe Webb could do a better job as Minnesota’s starting quarterback, and I know that I wasn’t the only Vikings fan to feel that way.
In the weeks following that regular season Green Bay loss, however, Christian Ponder started to look like a serviceable quarterback, and he helped the Vikings to four straight wins and a playoff berth (although Adrian Peterson did most of the work). It is safe to say that Ponder was creating a much more favorable image of himself, especially after playing so well in the season finale win over Green Bay. I believe Ponder was starting to gain some trust from Vikings fans, and many were probably excited about the chances that our team had against Green Bay in the playoffs with him under center.
Yet, in a turn of events as surprising as the movie Shutter Island, Christian was not able to play in Saturday’s playoff game due to an elbow injury suffered the previous week against the Packers. Sure, Christian was listed as questionable all week, but I don’t think that very many fans believed that he wouldn’t be able to play. It seemed that Minnesota was just being secretive with the injury report to keep the Packers guessing.
However, that was not the case, and there was nothing that we could do to take back the harsh words that we said about Ponder and about wanting him to be benched (again, I definitely wasn’t the only one). Doc Brown and the DeLorean were nowhere to be found, and our words could not be unspoken.
In an instant, the man who had been the focus of the anger of Vikings fans so many times this season became the man that we were suddenly left longing for.
So in the couple of hours leading up to the game, we were forced to try to convince ourselves that it might not be so bad to have Joe Webb start. After all, the Packers hadn’t fully prepared for him, and the quarterback change might throw them off a little after seeing Ponder twice in the previous five weeks. We thought that the Vikings still might at least be able to make it an interesting game.
But that all changed at the end of Minnesota’s opening possession. On third-and-7 from the Green Bay 15-yard line, Webb was asked to throw his first pass of the game (and season), and when he jumped and spiked the ball awkwardly at the feet of an open receiver for a potential first down, it seemed like an alarming omen of things to come.
Yes, Minnesota moved the ball well on the ground on that possession and still managed a field goal, but it was apparent that Joe might not quite be comfortable throwing the ball. And in the playoffs, against a Green Bay team that you have just faced twice in the past five weeks, you could count on the fact that the Packers would capitalize on Minnesota’s one-dimensional offense (even more one-dimensional than normal, that is).
And sure enough, Joe Webb played atrociously, and Green Bay was able to hold Adrian to mortal numbers. Webb was an absolutely awful two of 10 passing in the first half, with more than one questionable decision while trying to prevent sacks. And it became emphatically clear why Leslie Frazier had never benched Ponder during the regular season: Minnesota didn’t have a backup quarterback. The Vikings merely had an athlete masquerading as a backup quarterback. Sure, Webb can run fast and jump high, but, like an ostrich, his upper extremities aren’t good for much.
This game deserves no further breakdown. There is nothing else to dwell on. In a very fitting fashion for Minnesota, the outcome of the game was determined by poor quarterback play. It has been the story all season long, and it will be the story going into next season. Until either Christian Ponder asserts himself as an NFL quarterback, if ever, or until Minnesota brings in someone more capable to take the job, the prevailing storyline for the Vikings will be the consistency, or lack thereof, of quality quarterback play.
It was a surprisingly exciting season to be a Vikings fan after Minnesota’s supremely subpar performance last season, and it does seem that things are moving in the right direction. The Vikings have the NFL’s best running back, an improving defense, and several young players that emerged as potential core contributors for years to come. That being said, a team cannot win a Super Bowl without quality quarterback play, and thus, that remains the question for Minnesota moving forward.
What will the Vikings do to improve the talent at the quarterback position going into next season?
Even if the Vikings stick with Christian Ponder as their starter, one thing is certain after Joe Webb’s expletive inspiring performance on Saturday. Minnesota has to, at the very least, bring in a backup quarterback that can add value and competently run an offense when called upon, instead of just conceding games when the starting quarterback isn’t available.
Casey Johnson is a frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner