Monday, July 25, 2011
Scramble'11: Readying Christian Ponder
By Kevin Seifert
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- From a national perspective, at least, there seems to be a natural assumption that the Minnesota Vikings have no choice but to acquire a starting-caliber veteran quarterback in the coming days. The cancellation of offseason work, the theory goes, doomed any chance of getting rookie Christian Ponder ready to start right away.
Christian Ponder is the Vikings long-term solution at quarterback, and possibly their short-term solution as well.
I don't see it, never have seen it and won't see it until it hits me upside the head in a surprise. My sense is the Vikings drafted Ponder at No. 12 overall with the full expectation that he would be their immediate starter. He won't come to training camp completely cold, having studied a version of their new playbook for the past three months. There is no way he will be totally up to speed when the regular season begins, but would it be worth a draft pick to acquire the shortest of short-term starters?
My answer is no, and nothing team officials said during a news conference Monday suggested otherwise. I do think the Vikings will sign a veteran, but it will be someone to provide insurance against an unexpected hurdle in Ponder's development. I don't know who that person is, but I think it's much more likely to be someone of the Tyler Thigpen variety than Orton or McNabb.
Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman alluded to that scenario Monday. He acknowledged the Vikings have discussed every possible scenario but added: "I know we've talked about making sure the veteran quarterback will be the right fit, too. Not only for us to potentially win ballgames if we go down that route, but also the right fit in the room for Ponder and Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar."
Coach Leslie Frazier wouldn't rule out any possibility, but we know Ponder will be his quarterback in the long term. I have no doubt he wants Ponder as his quarterback in the short term as well.
"We're going to try to do what's best for the Vikings and what's best for our roster," Frazier said. "But I wouldn't put it past us to open the season with a young quarterback if that's the case."
As the muckety-muck of an unprecedented lockout transitions into the NFL's new free-agent template, we still must guard against being led astray by teams who don't want their competitors to get a preview of their game plan. If the Vikings were preparing an offer for Orton or McNabb, they wouldn't have jumped up and said so Monday.
But I'll go on record now and suggest it would be a mistake to invest the assets necessary, be it draft picks or salary cap space or both, to bring in a veteran starter. Frazier is building his offense around tailback Adrian Peterson and can employ an array of playmakers in the passing game, even if free agent Sidney Rice signs elsewhere. That kind of team can and should support a rookie quarterback, lost offseason or otherwise.