Weather Forecast


Time for change?

A sign of a good NFL coach is not to succumb to the knee-jerk reactions the typical fan possesses during a season where they live and die for each Sunday afternoon of football.

Patience is a virtue for an NFL coach.

But in the case of Minnesota Viking head coach Leslie Frazier, his patience with second-year quarterback Christian Ponder is wearing thin.

There is a fine line for head coaches in the NFL to be patient with a young player, who was drafted high, to allow them to develop and become the franchise-like player they hope to become.

But when that decision to stick with that said player is affecting the team's success, it needs to be questioned.

Such is the case for the 2012 Vikings and Ponder.

It was supposed to have been a rebuilding season under Frazier, one in which the Vikings brass was able to see what Ponder has to offer as a future franchise quarterback.

But after a spectacular draft which netted them key contributors in left tackle Matt Kalil, safety Harrison Smith, cornerback Josh Robinson and kicker Blair Walsh -- along with a 5-2 start -- the season quickly turned from an evaluation one, to trying to play for a playoff berth.

The key part of the schedule came up after the Vikings' bye week, where they were to play NFC North Division rivals Chicago and Green Bay twice each in the final eight weeks of the season.

That's when Frazier needed to insert the players who were the best option to win those games. With his reluctance of pulling a struggling Ponder, Frazier has failed his team.

Ponder regressed mightily after having a great start to the season, where the Vikings went 5-2. He was in command of the offense, didn't throw an interception in his first four games of the season and led the Vikings to points.

But after the eighth game of the season, it's been nothing but a bumpy ride for Ponder downhill. It looked like he bottomed out against Tampa Bay, but that bottom kept getting lower and lower.

He has failed to reach over 100 yards of passing in a game three times since week eight. In NFL terms, that's terrible.

There have been a potential of three games, where if Frazier would have inserted backup Joe Webb in the game, it would have heightened the chances of winning twofold.

Those games included at Seattle, at Chicago and at Green Bay.

Again, Frazier failed his team by stubbornly keeping the failing Ponder in those games.His play was a detriment to the Vikings' chances of winning. Ponder couldn't even manage the game anymore, throwing crucial red zone interceptions and three-and-outs on basically every series.

Even in the biggest win the Vikings pulled out in the second half of the season, that being Chicago inside the Metrodome, Ponder had very little contribution.

The Vikings can easily change their name to the Minnesota Petersons, in honor of the real Superman, namely running back Adrian Peterson.

He has literally put the team on his back -- and his surgically repaired knee -- and is running with it.

Shamefully enough, Frazier wasted a 200-plus rushing game by Peterson in Green Bay. Ponder's ill-advised dead-duck pass in the end zone against the Packers should have been the final straw for his playing days this season.

Sitting in the red zone and the chance to go up 21-7, Ponder floated a gift to the Packers, who eventually moved down the field for a field goal and thus changed the entire look of the game.

Peterson did everything he needed to do to win the game. Unfortunately, Ponder trumped that effort with his effort.

Now, it's not all on Ponder's shoulders. He has the most pedestrian wide receiving corps in the NFL, and possibly Division I college football, to work with.

The play calling by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is as conservative as a prom dance at the Nun Catholic School.

But Ponder has zero confidence. That was evident in his statement after the Vikes' win over Chicago last week. He was asked about his interception he threw down the field near halftime, where he threw off his back foot and floated it over the middle.

He said one of his wideouts Jarius Wright broke free in the flat and he should have went there.

Not the answer Viking fans want to hear. If Ponder would have stepped into his throw, while under pressure from a Bears' defender, he would have easily hit his wide-open wide receiver 40 yards down the field.

The obvious gameplan for the Vikings each week is to "run the ball, run the ball and then run it some more," as Frazier was quoted as saying after halftime last week by a Fox reporter during the Bears game.

Good plan, but wouldn't it be a good plan to have a top rushing quarterback in Webb to compliment Peterson?

Since the Vikes can't keep defenses honest with a passing attack which can go over the top, have another rushing threat who can bust any run off for a touchdown.

Webb provides that, or at the very least, his passing will not be any worse than Ponder's.

The Vikings have a prime opportunity to make a run for the playoffs. If they can win in St. Louis against the 6-6-1 Rams, their next two opponents may have already wrapped up everything they can for the playoffs.

Houston is basically one win away from earning home field advantage through the playoffs, and incidentally are the Vikes' opponent next week.

The final game of the season is the Packers at home and Green Bay could be playing in a meaningless game, as well.

Yes, it's a cheap way to get in the playoffs, but it would be a nice reward for the veteran players who are earning their pay and not a wasted effort by Vikings such as Peterson, Antoine Winfield and Jared Allen.

Frazier has the responsibility to give the Vikings the best chance to make the playoffs, and staying with Ponder is not the right call now.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.