Fran Tarkenton has become the master of the backhanded compliment. If someone has lost 50 pounds, he might compliment them and follow it up by saying, “Now if you do something about your teeth …”
Tarkenton made national headlines when he blasted Brett Favre for coming to the Vikings in 2009, publicly stating he hoped Favre would be a miserable failure. Since then, he has been the go-to guy in terms of bad-mouthing current NFL quarterbacks.
In an interview on Sirius Radio, Tarkenton promoted the Vikings’ move to Christian Ponder while at the same time burying Donovan McNabb and striking an unprovoked glove-slap to Rex Grossman, who has nothing to do with the Vikings’ change at QB.
When it came to Ponder, Tarkenton gave a half-hearted endorsement, saying the move isn’t so much to see what Ponder can do, but proof of what McNabb can’t.
“Let the kid play, because they’re going nowhere with Donovan McNabb,” Tarkenton said. “When are these guys going to understand when they play a retread, a guy that has either never shown he can play or that his best days are behind him in the way of Donovan McNabb?
For reasons unknown, other than perhaps the Redskins gave up on McNabb and promoted Grossman to the starting job (which he recently lost after a four-interception game), Tarkenton made no bones about his feelings about Grossman or McNabb, but again had praise for Ponder.
“In Washington, they go with Rex Grossman again,” Tarkenton said. “Rex Grossman has proven he cannot play and they keep doing this. At least in Minnesota, with Ponder, I hear good things about him. The coaches like him and I’m getting really good feedback. But they need to see if he can play and the only way they can see if he can play is they play him, because they’re not going to win with McNabb.”
Just as it seemed as though the praise of Ponder was going to overshadow the dismissive comments on McNabb and Grossman’s skills, Tarkenton added that Ponder has yet to prove anything and that his opportunity is the result of McNabb’s incompetence, not anything he has proved to anyone outside of the coaching staff. He said the final 10 games of the season will be his proving ground.
“If he cannot play, then they need to get back in there and draft another quarterback a la Carolina,” Tarkenton said, a reference to the Panthers taking Jimmy Clausen in the second round of the 2010 draft and Cam Newton with the first pick in 2011. “This is a good move by Minnesota. They’re fourth-best in their division. They’re going nowhere. But, here’s the other thing: He can throw, he can run (and he’s a) smart kid. The guys that separate themselves are the guys that figure out how to play quarterback – the ones that get it in the head. They become coaches on the field. They watch tape upon tape. That’s what Peyton (Manning) did. That’s what (Tom) Brady has done. That’s what (Drew) Brees has done. And now we have a fourth in the league in Aaron Rodgers. The kid’s got a brain. I think he graduated (from Florida State) in three years. He’s a smart kid and he’s got enough physical skills.”
Tarkenton left his final analysis in a “wait and see” posture. If Ponder struggles, we will likely hear from Tark’s tongue once again. As much as he endorses the move, he isn’t giving it tacit approval.
“He has a chance, but we don’t know,” Tarkenton said. “You never know until they play and we’ll see by the end of the year whether he has a chance. We’re not going to see whether he’s going to be as a good as Brady or Peyton Manning, but we’re going to see if he’s going to be a player. This is a good move with Ponder.”
The question now becomes, let’s say for example that Ponder completes about 55 percent of his passes for 2,000 yards, has as many interceptions as he has touchdown passes and has a passer rating a little below 75.0 – would that make him a failure? That was what Tarkenton did as a rookie starter and his career turned out pretty well – just ask him. However, if Ponder posts the same kind of numbers, we may see Tark bear his talons once again – even if Ponder’s numbers are identical to those of the Hall of Famer.
Jamarca Sanford and John Sullivan aren’t expected to play Sunday. Both are listed as doubtful. Antoine Winfield was also listed as doubtful, but having practiced on a limited basis all three days of practice, there is a flicker of hope that he may be the 25 percent probability of playing, which is what “doubtful” on the injury report denotes.
Almost 20 percent of the Packers active roster didn’t practice Friday. OT Chad Clifton, LB Frank Zombo and DE Mike Neal have been listed as out all week. CB Sam Shields and LB Jamari Lattimore weren’t listed as out (they were doubtful), but didn’t practice all week. Two key starters – linebacker Clay Matthews and guard Josh Sitton – didn’t practice Wednesday, were limited on Thursday and didn’t practice Friday.
Packers DE Pickett will be interesting to monitor before game time because, unless he suffered the concussion in practice Thursday, one has to wonder when did he sustain the concussion and why wasn’t it diagnosed before Friday? Speculation will begin either way – if Pickett plays, his concussion will come into question. If he doesn’t play, questions will arise as to what happened between Thursday and Friday?
Pickett is listed as questionable, but Matthews, Newhouse and Sitton are all listed as probable.
Former Viking Ray Edwards is no stranger to taking on different occupations. Last summer during the lockout, Edwards took up boxing, defeating a 5-foot-8 opponent at a Minnesota casino. Now he’s getting into male modeling. Edwards is letting it all hang out in a 2012 monthly calendar that features Ray-Ray in some candid poses.
In one of the more surprising moves of the year, longtime Bears center Olin Kreutz, who wasn’t re-signed by the Bears and subsequently signed on with New Orleans, abruptly quit Friday. Claiming he had “lost my passion for the game,” he leaves the Saints somewhat in the lurch in their search. So unexpected was the announcement that, as of late Friday, the team’s official website was still listing Kreutz as its starting center. It would appear that backup Matt Tennant will start Sunday night against Indianapolis and the Saints have likely already begun scouring practice squads and the waiver wire. While most players would kill to stay in the league as long as possible, Kreutz’s legacy might be tarnished beyond repair from his mid-season exit. Passion or no passion, former players and Hall of Fame voters take a dim view of a player who bails mid-stream on a season after committing to be a key part of the team. For a player like Brett Favre, his tumultuous final season won’t be his legacy. He went down limping, but he went down swinging – going from being listed as “out” to starting the game when the Vikings played Chicago. He led the team to a score on its first drive, but got injured again and never made it back to the field. With the off-field distractions, it was a brutal season, but Favre won’t be remembered as a texter or, for that matter, a Viking as time goes by. Kreutz could be remembered as a guy who quit on his team when their coach was hobbled and the starters needed to band together.
There are growing rumors that Detroit running back Jahvid Best may consider shutting down his season after suffering a second concussion. Best was a clear first-round back, but concussion concerns dropped him to the bottom of the first round – the Lions traded with the Vikings to get Best. The Vikings ended up drafting Chris Cook. It could help explain why the Lions tried to trade for Ronnie Brown, because the running game could be reduced to journeyman Maurice Morris and unproven Keiland Williams
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.