Christian Gives Minnesota Something to Ponder

Donovan McNabb was an offensive force in the National Football League for many years with the Philadelphia Eagles but, as we all know, all good things must eventually come to an end. The veteran quarterback's reign of dominance - eight seasons of 3,000+ passing yards - appears to have come to a screeching halt with the emergence of rookie Christian Ponder.

The former Florida State star appears to have taken the starting QB job away from McNabb after leading the Minnesota Vikings club to .500 record in the last two contests, thanks to back-to-back games with 200+ passing yards. The Vikings sit in last place in the NFC North after getting off to an 1-5 start; since switching to the rookie QB, the team has gone 1-1 and narrowly missed coming back against Green Bay in Week 7.

Originally drafted 12th overall by the Vikings in 2011, Ponder was the fourth QB selected behind Carolina's Cam Newton (1st overall), Tennessee's Jake Locker (8th), and Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert (10th). Although he was widely considered the fourth best QB taken in the first round, he's now looking to challenge Newton as the best rookie field general in the NFL.

In Week 7, Ponder got his feet wet as a starting QB in the NFL for the first time. He threw for 218 yards but his overall results were just OK. His WPA sat at 0.05 and his EPA was 4.8. His success rate was the eighth lowest in the NFL that week at 38.5% and he completed just 40.6% of his plays.

In Week 8, Ponder faced off against Newton and the Carolina Panthers and led his team to victory despite being slightly outperformed by his freshman counterpart. Ponder had the eighth best game for a quarterback, in terms of WPA at 0.30. He also had a completion rate of 64.3%. His EPA, though, was low at 4.6. His overall performance was dragged down by a success rate of just 38.9%.

If Ponder can continue to perform like he did in Week 8, then the Minnesota Vikings have another piece to build around young star running back Adrian Peterson. After a chance to catch his breath and iron out some wrinkles in his game with a bye in Week 9, the young QB will face a stiff test in Week 10 with a return engagement against the undefeated Green Bay Packers.

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7 Responses to “Christian Gives Minnesota Something to Ponder”

  1. bigmouth says:

    It would be interesting to see a comparison between McNabb and Ponder. Although the former took the fall for the Vikings' early struggles, it's not immediately clear to me he was the problem.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hacky title is Hacky

  3. Anonymous says:

    "...he's now looking to challenge Newton as the best rookie field general in the NFL." No mention of Dalton?

  4. zlionsfan says:

    Ponder has already passed Dalton.

  5. Chris says:

    Really, on this site, we're declaring him already past Dalton after two games from Ponder? Sample size much?

    And we're declaring what an improvement he is, b/c he went 1-1 as opposed to 1-5 of D. McNabb. Why are we discussing record of QBs anyway? really W-L? I feel like the quality of this analysis was not quite up to par with some of the more in depth and thoughtful analysis we've all grown used to on this site.

  6. Anonymous says:

    McNabb's best performance this year was -0.01 WPA in the loss to Tampa Bay. Ponder's WORST performance was also -0.01 WPA, in just the last quarter of the loss to Chicago. He recorded (slight) positive WPAs in both the loss to Green Bay and the win over Carolina. So if you look at the stats, Ponder has been an improvement so far. I agree there hasn't been much time to evaluate him, but McNabb had negative WPA in all six games he started, including his one win. So a QB who isn't terrible (as McNabb has been) is worth starting.

    And this is getting away from the stats, but you need look no further than the Colts for a situation in which the psychological impact of a team that doesn't trust its quarterback can bring the whole team down. Their defense is playing poorly even though Peyton Manning is an offensive player. I think the players on the Vikings trust Ponder and that helps the whole team.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Whoa,WHOA WHOA! the Colts defense plays poorly even when Manning is there. They have almost never reached competence.

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