The news came early Tuesday afternoon amidst the dying hours of the NFL draft that the Minnesota Vikings had made a move at quarterback. No, the team had not made a trade, but rather benched Donovan McNabb for week seven’s matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Instead, the Vikings will start rookie Christian Ponder, according to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
The news came one day after Frazier said he would discuss the quarterback situation with his staff and promised to reach a conclusion by the middle of the week.
For McNabb, it is the second time in as many seasons that he has lost his job near mid-season, after leading the Vikings to a 1-5 record. Last season – as a member of the Washington Redskins – McNabb was replaced in week eight, in favor of backup Rex Grossman. Despite the fact that last Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears was statistically his best, the 34-year-old was benched in the fourth quarter and replaced by Ponder in route to an embarrassing 39-10 loss.
Despite the fact that he was sacked four out of his last six snaps, McNabb went 19 for 24 including an awful drop by Bernard Berrian that hit him in the hands on a key third-down play. McNabb has only turned the ball over twice this season, this time last season Brett Favre had lost four fumbles and been intercepted 10 times as Minnesota’s starter.
But now it is time for the franchise to look ahead.
Ponder is the Vikings’ future and while this season can pretty much be chalked up as a failure, there is pride that is still on the line. Two of the next three games on their schedule are against the undefeated, division rival Packers. As for Ponder, he was selected 12th overall out of Florida State this year by the Vikings and has already shown he has confidence in the pocket. He certainly hasn’t had much development time but Frazier said he has no plan to switch back and forth between the two starting quarterbacks, so the job should be his for good.
Last week Ponder went 9 for 17, throwing for 99 yards and finishing with a quarterback rating of 70.5, although he clearly looked scared at times against one of the toughest defenses in the NFC. It will take time and this experience could prove important for Ponder, but we’re pretty sure this isn’t how the Vikings wanted to transition him from a solid college player to an NFL quarterback.
As for McNabb, it could have been his final NFL game – barring an injury to Ponder.
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.