Monday, December 3, 2012

Coming off the ledge: Is Christian Ponder the next Tarvaris Jackson?

To read Pacifist Viking's take on Minnesota's 23-14 loss to the Packers, click here.

My follow-up posts to PV's analysis usually try to provide a different take on a Vikings win (or loss). But I can't in good conscience do that this week. Let me explain ...

Do the Vikings wide receivers – besides Percy Harvin – blow? Absofuckinglutely.

Were the Vikings jobbed by a questionable call by the refs, who seemingly fell prey to the Lambeau Field mystique? That's the only thing that can explain Ed Hoculi's brutal roughing the passer call on Everson Griffen that wiped out a Jared Allen interception late in the second quarter deep in Packers territory, a potential game-changing turnover.

And did the Minnesota defense allow Aaron Rodgers to convert third downs almost at will in the second half – failing to get off the field and get those critical stops the Vikings needed to preserve their slim lead? Yes they did.

But responsibility for this loss lies solely with second-year quarterback Christian Ponder. And looking anywhere else is chasing ghosts. After the loss, I was monitoring my Twitter feed (@KickassblogVike) when a frustrated Viking fan calling for Ponder's head tweeted something to the effect of "Tarvaris Jackson was crucified for less" (not his exact tweet).

That got me to thinking about our old friend, Tarvaris, who is now Ryan Fitzpatrick's caddie in Buffalo. Jackson was Ponder's predecessor as the Vikings "QB of the future" and he started 20 games during his five seasons with the Vikings. And while there were flashes of competence here and there, what became clear to Vikings fans who watched the team closely was TJack had some significant holes in his game that couldn't be wallpapered over.

Hole #1: He threw a horrible deep ball.

Hole #2: His accuracy on passes in the middle of the field and beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage was atrocious.

Hole #3: He had poor pocket awareness and tended to lock on to one receiver.

The Vikings head coach at the time, Brad Childress, rolled with Jackson for most of 2007 and parts of 2008 (when the Vikes won the NFC North). But after a putrid performance against Philly in the playoffs at home, Chilly made the decision to trade for Sage Rosenfels to compete with Jackson for the starting job, and then hauled Lord Brett Favre out of retirement (twice!). After 2009, The Tarvaris Jackson Experience was over.

I know people like to preach patience with quarterbacks, and I consider myself a patient guy. But Ponder is roughly at the same stage in his career as Jackson was in 2009 – with 22 starts under his belt. And while there's been flashes of comptence here and there, it's become clear to Vikings fans who watch the team closely that Ponder has some significant holes in his game that can't be wallpapered over.

Hole #1: He throws a horrible deep ball.

Hole #2: His accuracy on passes in the middle of the field and beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage is atrocious.

Hole #3: He has poor pocket awareness and tended to lock on to one receiver.

But don't take my word for it. The Daily Norseman's Ted Glover even saved me the trouble of compiling Jackson and Ponder's passing stats in this post. Those stats are strikingly similar. In 20 starts for the Vikes, TJack passed for 3,984 yards, 24 touchdowns, was intercepted 22 times, completed 58.7 % of his passes and had a QB rating of 76.7. In Ponder's 22 starts for the Vikes, he's thrown for 4,086 yards, 26 touchdowns, been intercepted 22 times, completed 59.4 % of his passes and posted a QB rating of 76.7.

Perhaps Ponder can pull an Eli Manning and dramatically improve his play in year three or four of his young career. But during this six-game stretch where Adrian Peterson has run for more yards (947) than Ponder has passed for (871) and the Vikings have gone 2-4, Ponder has looked incapable of playing in the Arena League.

The Vikings management has said they are going to keep rolling with Ponder, so we're stuck with him for the rest of 2012 barring some injury. But at this point, not only am I convinced Ponder is no better than TJack, I think he might even be worse than Jackson with the way his play has regressed of late.

Even Brad Childress knew when to say when with Jackson. When will Vikings general manager Rick Spielman do the same with Ponder?


  1. I brought up ol' Jump Pass to my wife during the 4th quarter of that game. I can hardly believe MN almost won in Green Bay despite the one bad call (you know it's bad when Joe Buck is speaking against the Packers) while Ponder continued to play like a soggy bandaid.

    I find it amazing that Ponder's and Jackson's stats are so similar. I also find it amazing that Jackson only had 20 starts! Feels like 50.

    I don't usually remember draft picks the Vikings passed on, but I will remember Peterson injuring himself in a meaningless win that eliminated Luck and RGIII from the Vikings' plans. I wonder how St Louis fans feel about that trade these days...?

    1. Peter:

      I have my doubts if the Vikings had secured the #2 overall pick if they would have chosen RGIII. Look what St. Louis did, they were in almost the same position as the Vikes – they already had selected their franchise QB (and had much more coin invested in Bradford than the Vikes have in Ponder, as Bradford was chosen #1 overall before the rookie salary cap came in). I don't think Spielman picks RGIII even if he has that #2 pick – unless he thought Griff was an all-timer, which is what he's starting to look like.