Thursday, August 30, 2012

National Friday League: Away We'll Go

You probably don't read me for Realism (or, Optimism)
I saw what I wanted to see in the preseason.

I saw Christian Ponder attempt a lot of passes downfield. And I also saw him hitting his targets downfield. And that's what I most wanted to see.

It would be terrible for the Vikings to use Ponder as nothing but a dink and dunk quarterback for 2012. It won't help the team advance the ball down the field and score points, for certain. There would be a lot of punts, few points, and a lot of frustration. The Vikes have to throw the ball deep sometimes, and Christian Ponder has to be a quarterback capable of throwing the ball deep sometimes. Without those deep throws, the Vikings will constantly be trying to run and throw in a tight, compact field where defenders are sitting tight on the run and all the short stuff. The NFL rules favor passing, and if you don't try to exploit teams via the pass, you probably aren't a good NFL offense.

Even in the lackluster team performance in the preseason game against the Chargers, Ponder attempted several downfield passes and put the ball in his receivers' hands on most of them (they didn't always catch it). And throughout the preseason he's shown zip and depth on longer passes. It's still preseason: it doesn't mean everything.

Two things mean a great deal for the franchise this season: Christian Ponder's development and Christian Ponder's exposure. Development is improvement. Exposure is more a matter of showing what you are. Christian Ponder will show what he is this year.

Christian Ponder is his own player.
During the Vikings-Chargers preseason game, Paul Allen said something to the effect that it isn't fair to judge Christian Ponder until he's playing with Adrian Peterson (and the full first team, etc.). And this strikes me as very wrong.

Christian Ponder is a player. He is a quarterback, and he was a first-round pick. We can evaluate him and make judgments about his play and potential on his own merit. And we had better.  Ponder is a 24 year old quarterback: if he turns out to be a good quarterback, he's going to be on the team for 10 or more years. Adrian Peterson is a 27 year old running back: if the Vikings are extremely lucky, Peterson has five more years of superb performance in him before he starts to decline (it's more likely fewer). If the Vikings are right about Ponder, he'll be the team's quarterback long after Peterson is off the team -- and if he's not good enough to be the quarterback after that, they shouldn't have drafted him.

And if Christian Ponder is such a nonentity that he can't be fairly evaluated unless he plays with Peterson, or that he won't perform well without a great running back, that is itself a problem for the future. But it's not just long-term concern. Despite optimism, we don't know what kind of performer Peterson is going to be in 2012: it may be that Ponder will not be playing with an elite running back this season, and he will still have to perform.

True Sleepers
There are usually teams that were bad the year before that get some national buzz as "sleepers" in the offseason and the buzz sort of makes them not really sleepers but sort of a hot pick. The 2012 Vikings are not such a team. I haven't come across a national writer that thinks the Vikings will be good this year. I've come across several that think they'll be terrible. If the Vikings are actually somehow good this year (and I think 9-7 fighting for Wild Card counts), they will be a real true sleeper, somebody nobody really accounted for and most would find hard to understand.

Kick Ass Links
"The best fantasy football players since 1950" (Football Perspective).

Another look at the greatest QBs of all-time (Football Perspective).

The Vikings have a few of the type of contracts Bill Barnwell says teams should avoid (Grantland).

It's a long-term plan (1500 ESPN Twin Cities). And that is right -- but that's not great for Leslie Frazier. Remember when David Kahn (rightly) drafted Ricky Rubio and basically said, whatever, he's young, we don't care if we don't have him for two years? That's fine -- but it means you have to allow the team to suck, and suck it did, and the coach Kurt Rambis got fired while the team happily waited for Rubio.

I believe in you too, Sage! (Pioneer Press).

I've been on board for eliminating overtime in the regular season for a long time, and a big reason is I would love to see coaches forced into some of those decisions about ties (Grantland).


  1. I remember Allen making the same comment and immediately thinking, 'that's kind of a dumb thing to say.' NFL QBs frequently have to play without their best 11 during the regular season due to injuries, etc. If Ponder is the kind of QB that deserved to be drafted 12th overall, he'll figure out a way to play well regardless.

  2. 9-7? Is there a purple horse of the apocalypse?

    I see 7 wins as this team's ceiling, but i am looking forward to watching young players and "fixed" positions, and to think about next offseason and all of the potential the Vikes have for the future... Very excited to focus on Ponder this year.

  3. Seven wins sounds about right. I guess I'm a little less optimistic about how the Vikings will fare after watching them in preseason: WRs look the same, O-line might be a problem against despite adding Kalil, Ponder's looked Ok-to-solid. Secondary looks improved (how couldn't it?), but how much has it improved? Some promise, but lots of problems.