Christian Ponder (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY)
After a three-interception performance, there were few concrete answers about the quarterback play at Winter Park. Christian Ponder and Leslie Frazier admitted more consistency is needed, but Frazier put the entire team at fault for the loss.
Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder were under the microscope Wednesday at Winter Park and left to explain why the team struggled so badly against an opponent that was 4-12 last year.
The words of the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach and quarterback were measured. Their words were thought out. But, when viewed in printed form, can give different impressions. Take, for example this comment asking about Ponder’s mindset heading into the preparation phase of Sunday’s Bears game.
“He’s a guy that’s focused and really wanting to do better than he did last week – just like the rest of our team,” Frazier said. “He’s committed to improving and he’ll need to have a good week of practice because those guys do a good job of (creating turnovers). They ended up winning the turnover battle a week ago and that, for them, usually turns out to be wins. (Ponder) is pretty focused and needs to have a good week.”
At face value, it appeared like an endorsement of Ponder, but an endorsement that comes with a caveat – you’ve got to do better. Asked about Ponder’s body of work, Frazier again said words that are accurate, but open to interpretation.
“We need consistent, good quarterback play in order for our offense to thrive and for our team to be successful,” Frazier said. “Christian knows that as much as anybody. There are certain things we can’t do. Our margin of error is small, so if we’re turning the ball over, it just shrinks our opportunities to win.”
For his part, Ponder’s press conference had the feeling of a court deposition. Asked when he felt the Detroit game was slipping away from the Vikings, Ponder responded like a rehearsed defendant.
“Honestly, that feeling that it got away from me never happened,” Ponder said. “It’s just a couple bad mistakes, a high ball to Jerome (Simpson) that was unfortunately tipped up and caught. That didn’t hurt us because we got the ball right back. The defense did a great job of creating a turnover. The second interception, (I was) just trying to throw the ball away, I have to have better awareness that a guy is bearing down on me.”
Ponder had an alibi. Frazier spoke like a cop in front of a cluster of microphones and cameras. In one of his more lengthy passages, those who believe Frazier is behind Ponder got more evidence. For those who think Matt Cassel is warming with some urgency got nothing to put out the fire.
“Christian made some mistakes,” Frazier said. “He’s not the only reason we didn’t have success on Sunday. Our team did not play well and that affects the quarterback as well. We’ve got to do a better job up front. We’ve got to do a better job at tight end, wide receiver, defensive line, linebacker, secondary, special teams. As much as our quarterback can help us to win, for us on Sunday, it was not all about Christian. He had his mistakes. It’s just the fact is that the quarterback position is much more magnified. We had some other guys, if you study our tape, they didn’t play well either and it affected whether we could win that ball game. It wasn’t just Christian. It just so happens that he plays the position that’s under the most scrutiny. But we had other guys, trust me, that when we watched the tape, the scrutiny that needed to be had in those moments, they are well aware that they had to play better. And they’re not looking only at our quarterback and saying, ‘If he had done this or that, we would have won that ball game.’ We need to play better across the board.”
Much like other issues, the same words are subject to perception. Is Ponder safe at QB? Take your pick.
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.