Holler: Time to rethink the quarterback order
Matt Cassel (Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY)
Matt Cassel (Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY)
Posted Dec 13, 2013

The Vikings entered the season with Christian Ponder as their unquestioned starter … until he faltered. Matt Cassel could have the opportunity to change their thinking for next year.

Maybe it’s time for an audible.

For much of the 2013 season, Matt Cassel has been the de facto No.2 quarterback of the Vikings. He came in with Christian Ponder as the answer for the starting job. That didn’t happen. Then he got checker-jumped by Josh Freeman, whose first start was his only start as a Viking.

Yet, by any measure, Cassel has given the Vikings the proverbial “best chance to win” of any of the Vikings quarterbacks.

The numbers don’t lie. Only head coaches and quarterbacks have win-loss stats associated with them. The Vikings are 2-2 in games that Cassel has started. They’re 1-7-1 in games he didn’t.

While Cassel doesn’t have the mobility of Ponder, he has been much more effective in getting rid of the ball. Of 165 drop backs, he has been sacked just six times. Despite running 34 times, most of them on scrambles to avoid sacks, Ponder has been sacked 27 times while throwing 239 times.

Sacks kill drives and Ponder has been much more likely to take sacks than Cassel. Both have played with essentially the same offensive line in front of them, yet Cassel has taken just six sacks – an average of one sack for every 27 passes thrown. Ponder has 27 sacks – one sack for every nine passes thrown.

All of the discussion surrounding the quarterback position has centered around Ponder and Josh Freeman. Freeman has yet to see the field again after the debacle against the Giants and Ponder has failed when given the opportunity. The only positives that can be taken from any of the three quarterbacks has been from Cassel.

Cassel signed a two-year contract with the Vikings last spring with the second year being a player option. If Cassel wants out, he has that right. But, moving forward through the offseason, especially if the Vikings draft a quarterback in May’s draft, they’re going to need someone who can be a security blanket if the young QB isn’t ready to start immediately and be ready to take his place if the rookie would start and would struggle.

If the Vikings keep just one of their three quarterbacks currently on the roster, if they’re looking for the player who gives them the best chance to win, that player would seem to be Cassel. Whether he wants to stay after the yo-yo season the Vikings quarterbacks have had this year is up to debate. You couldn’t blame him if he wanted out of the dysfunctional Vikings offense, but he has earned the respect of his teammates and has taken command of the huddle when given the opportunity.

If might be in the best interest of the Vikings organization to keep Cassel as the starter – for the remainder of the season and into next year. If the Vikings are serious about putting out the players who give the team the best chance to win, Cassel is the only quarterback who has come close to living up to those standards. If not for the special teams and defense giving up three touchdowns in the final 2:09 of Sunday’s game with Baltimore, Cassel would be 3-1 as a starter. If that isn’t giving your team the best chance to win, what is?

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.

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