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What's the problem? The artist or the clay?

by Chris Tubbs

As sports fans and media, we’re conditioned to look at the obvious.  For example, we know that a baseball team with good starting pitching is much more likely to have a good season and win a championship.

The same goes for football.  A team with an above average/solid quarterback is more likely to have success then one that doesn’t.  Unfortunately for Minnesota Vikings fans, this seems to be a yearly trip on the emotional carousel. It ranges from “the one we have sucks” to “the one we have REALLY sucks)”.  And to be honest, fans have a right to be upset with the quality they’ve seen from their first round draft choice from 2011, Christian Ponder.

I don’t judge NFL preseason success on wins and losses. To do that is ignorant and ill informed. I want to see progress. Is someone getting better? And the answer for the first two games was no. I didn’t see any progression from the young Vikings quarterback. This continued into the first four series of the preseason game vs. San Francisco. But then something happened. Maybe a small glimmer of hope for Vikings fans.

NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth made an interesting observation (and one I’ve been hoping to see) when he noticed Christian Ponder was staying in the pocket a bit longer. I’d been begging for this. It’s maddening watching a quarterback who gets happy feet in the pocket not calmly look through his reads and make a confident, strong throw. If he and the team are going to take the “next step” he’s got to up his game, and the team knows this.

Just by looking at Ponder’s numbers (17-23, 116 yards, two touchdowns and an interception), one would say it’s an average outing. And to his defense the interception wasn’t his fault as Stephen Burton stopped running his route. But after going immediately to his comfort zone, which is the one yard Tight End check down, he stayed put and didn’t immediately run outside the numbers. And when he did a funny thing happened. He started putting a little more zip on the ball and delivered it more confidently because let’s be honest, his body language doesn’t exactly exude swagger and confidence.

Kudos to Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave for acknowledging that he needs to get more out of his quarterback, and the bootleg to the right can be easily neutralized if that’s all you have. I’m not saying Ponder is the answer, but maybe the light bulb is starting to go on?

Everyone can see the Vikings need to find a way to get more from their quarterback. Musgrave came in with a reputation as a quarterback guru and has developed Matt Schaub and Matt Ryan we’re waiting for him to do the same in Minnesota. The question still remains, is it the artist, or is it the clay?