The future has arrived in Minnesota, but Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier is focused on the present.
“We made a change at quarterback with Christian Ponder being named our starter for Sunday’s game and for the remainder of the season,” Frazier told Green Bay media on Wednesday. “Looking at where our team is and what we’re trying to get accomplished, I felt like it was the time to make that decision.”
Normally, the decision to install a rookie as a starting quarterback begins a painful development process, but that’s something the Packers have been able to avoid at quarterback for 20 years and Frazier spoke of the switch from Donovan McNabb to Ponder as having been made for the present, not just the future.
“One of the reasons the change is made is because, where we are right now, our margin for error, when it comes to wins and losses, has shrunk. In my mind, this change had to be made to give us the best chance to win on Sunday. If we can get that done, it gives us an opportunity to continue to pursue our goals,” Frazier said.
“Where we are, we needed to get this done.”
So Ponder will be under center for the 1-5 Vikings on Sunday when they host the 6-0 Packers, the NFL’s only undefeated team. Ponder, a first-round draft choice out of Florida State, will be matched against Aaron Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP and the league’s top-rated passer.
“They’re playing lights out on offense. They’ve got a lot of weapons. It’s a very efficient offense and nobody has come up with any answers for their offense along the way,” Frazier said of Rodgers and the Packers.
Ponder got some mop-up playing time in a 39-10 loss to the Bears on Sunday. He’s completed nine of 17 passes for 99 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and a 70.5 passer rating. Most of all, he’ll offer hope of a brighter future to a Vikings franchise and fan base that desperately needs it. The team’s future in Minnesota, of course, remains uncertain.
“When he did get in to play in the limited time he played, he did some good things that made it clear to me the game wasn’t too big for him, the speed of the game didn’t scare him, and I had seen some things in practice that let me know he was close to being ready to get in there,” Frazier said of Ponder.
Ponder’s best weapon on Sunday will be running back Adrian Peterson, who’s rushed for 537 yards and seven touchdowns. The Vikings are expected to feature Peterson.
“A lot goes into developing a quarterback and Minnesota is starting it now with Ponder,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s a quarterback league. It’s a position you have to have if you want to be explosive.”
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen leads the league with 9.5 sacks and he’s the Vikings’ best weapon against Rodgers and the Packers’ prolific passing game.
“They’re on a roll over there. We’ve got to be really good on first and second down. We have to force them into third-and-longs. Hopefully, some guys can win some matchups. If (Rodgers) can get into a rhythm, it can be a long day, so we have to break his rhythm up,” Allen said.
Allen was asked if the Vikings’ decision to go with Brett Favre at the quarterback position a few years ago damaged the team’s long-term prospects at the position.
“We made a play to win. We got to an NFC Championship game. We didn’t have anybody waiting in the wings. I thought our organization did what we had to do to win a championship,” Allen said.
Ponder represents a course correction at the position.
“We’re underachieving as a team right now. Hopefully, ’09 isn’t as close as we get; 1-5 is tough to swallow. I gotta believe there’ll be something good around this,” Allen said.
“We have a home game against a division rival that’s playing great ball. We’re going to test ourselves and as a competitor you better answer that bell.” Additional coverage - Oct. 19