The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 12, 2012

Rueda column: Vikings have quarterback questions to Ponder

By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor

— The Christian Ponder conundrum seems to be the main storyline of the Minnesota Vikings these days and just about every fan has an opinion about it.

Should they give up on him and start third-year quarterback Joe Webb instead? Or is time to give rookie McLeod Bethel-Thompson from Sacramento State a shot? Maybe it’s too early to pull the plug on a guy the team used a No. 12 pick to draft just two years ago.

Those are questions that are seriously up for debate these days. At this point, the coaching staff seems to be in Ponder’s corner but you have to wonder if he would have played the entire game last Sunday if the team hadn’t been ahead of the Bears the whole way.

Ponder’s stats were less than thrilling. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 91 yards without a touchdown. He also threw one interception.

If it wasn’t for Adrian Peterson’s running and some big plays by the defense, it’s unlikely the Vikings would have won that game.

The biggest problem in the debate is that the two options behind Ponder are not very good. Webb has proven to be a great athlete as advertised, but has shown no signs of ever developing into a legitimate starting NFL quarterback.

Bethel-Thompson may have beaten out veteran Sage Rosenfels for the team’s third-string quarterback job last summer, but he is obviously very raw. In his limited play during the preseason he did nothing to earn the title quarterback-of-the-future for the Vikings.

Compounding the decision making of the coaching staff is that the team still has an outside shot of making the playoffs. If the coaches believe Ponder gives them the best chance to win right now, and they apparently do, making a change would be counter productive.

So what’s the best course of action?

There’s not much to do except stick with Ponder the rest of the way. Sure, he can be replaced if the team gets way ahead or way behind in any particular game but, until the Vikings are mathematically eliminated from the postseason, it doesn’t make much sense to sit him down.

If the second-year quarterback’s performance does not improve from now until the end of the season, the coaching staff will have a tough decision to make.

Do they continue to ride Ponder despite his body of work to date? Or do they look elsewhere for a player, either through trade, free agency or the draft, who can be an upgrade at the position?

These last three games may provide the answer.


Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at