EDEN PRAIRIE — Through 22 games started, Christian Ponder isn’t close to where the Minnesota Vikings need him to be.
The quarterback they’ve been counting on to build a contender around has repeated costly mistakes and shown persistent mechanical problems when many of his NFL peers are ascending to another level. As for how many more weeks Ponder needs before his skill set is established and the Vikings can determine whether he’s truly a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come, that’s difficult to tell.
But people are becoming impatient, and that includes Ponder.
“I hope not that long. Hopefully as soon as possible. I don’t really know. I think it’s hard to establish a timeline like that,” Ponder said. “Every player is different. Obviously I want to get to that consistent level as soon as possible.”
Even leaving out the top-two draft picks of the last two years, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, second-year starters like Andy Dalton and rookies like Russell Wilson have been outperforming Ponder. The 12th overall selection in 2011 from Florida State had one of his worst games last Sunday, throwing two crippling second-half interceptions deep in Green Bay territory that led to Minnesota’s 23-14 loss. Ponder didn’t pass the 100-yard mark until the final, desperation drive.
Comparisons to other quarterbacks around his age, though, are not part of Ponder’s process.
“I know I could be playing better and I want that level of success. Whether other players are playing better or not, I have my own expectations for myself regardless of what they’re doing,” he said.
Ponder called his performance a “wake-up call” to change the way he’s been playing.
“Especially where we are in the season and with the goals that are in our hands, I’ve got to make sure that I give our team a chance to be successful,” Ponder said.