Josh Freeman (Al Bello/Getty)
Leslie Frazier said he hasn’t made up his mind yet for a starting quarterback Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, but it’s down to Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman.
The Vikings could be looking at another quarterback change, but it’s down to another dose of Christian Ponder or going back to Josh Freeman.
That was the Monday assessment of head coach Leslie Frazier, who said he didn’t want to discount Matt Cassel, but yet limited the discussion for Sunday’s starter against the Dallas Cowboys to the either Freeman or Ponder.
“Just trying to look at the whole picture, who will give us the best chance to win. From our standpoint as coaches, for this Dallas ball game, that’s what it will be based on,” Frazier said. “The other factors is what the health of the other guys are and primarily who do you think will give you the best chance in this ball game against Dallas.”
Cassel has given the Vikings their only win of the season, 34-27 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London, but Frazier admitted his next starter wouldn’t include Cassel.
The health of Freeman is also a factor. After starting last Monday night in a 23-7 loss to the New York Giants, Freeman came in the following day with concussion-like symptoms. He cleared the NFL protocol on post-concussion analysis – both cognitive and physical – but after missing the installation days of practice last week they didn’t want to rush him into the lineup.
Freeman said he finally felt he was past the concussion on Saturday. He reiterated on Monday his performance against the Giants was “just a hair off.”
“Just a few throws here and there. We got to find a way to get points on the board early and not be in that situation,” Freeman said.
“I wouldn’t say it was nervousness at all. You’re just fired up to be out there and just a little high on some throws, and put a little too much heat on a couple of them. It definitely was a great learning experience.”
The statistical breakdown of Vikings’ quarterbacks in 2013 goes like this:
Christian Ponder: four starts, 60.3 completion percentage, 6.91 yards per attempt, two touchdowns, five interceptions and a 69.4 rating.
Matt Cassel: two starts, 69.6 completion percentage, 7.09 yards per attempt, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 92.0 rating.
Josh Freeman: one start, 37.7 completion percentage, 3.58 yards per attempt, no touchdowns, one interception and a 40.6 rating.
Cassel’s statistics are the best, but Ponder and Freeman are the only ones being considered as the starter Sunday.
“I don’t want to discount Matt, but Christian did some good things in that ballgame. There were some things he could obviously do better, but that has something to do with it. He has led us to some wins in the past,” Frazier said. “Josh, we brought him here to evaluate him and determine whether he could be a guy that could be a potential player for us in the future. That’s what goes into trying to evaluate the both of them.”
After starting the first three games of the season, Ponder missed his fourth start because of a rib injury and wasn’t re-inserted into the lineup when healthy. But after the free-agent acquisition of Freeman, the former Tampa Bay quarterback was given a shot one week after he was immersed into the Vikings’ offensive system.
Frazier said he has talked about his approach with Cassel in the past, although not directly related to his decision for a starter in their next game.
“He’s a competitor. He wants to be out there. He wants to start, and he wants to help this football team win,” Frazier said. “I would expect nothing different from him. He’s been in this league a while now; he’s had some success in our league. He wants to help our team.”
When Freeman suffered a concussion against the Giants on Oct. 21, Ponder was given another shot Sunday night. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 145 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Ponder and his teammates last week said he was more relaxed and Frazier said that translated into the game.
“I thought he played a little more relaxed and less tense than he did in his previous three starts,” Frazier said. “Seemed to be more composed and in command.
“There are some things he can obviously do better, but it has something to do with it. He has led us to some wins in the past. Josh, we brought him here to evaluate him and determine if he could be a guy that could be a potential player for us in the future. So, that’s what goes into trying to evaluate the both of them.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.