Enter Christian Ponder for the Minnesota Vikings, who have dropped off the face of football earth this season at a dismal 1-5. Donovan McNabb has never looked worse throughout the course of a single season, and, now that he's been demoted to backup, his career may have just hit rock bottom.
Although McNabb statistically had his best statistical game this year for Minnesota against the Chicago Bears on Sunday by going 19 for 24 with 177 yards passing, he was sacked four times on his last six snaps and went down without much fight to evade. He was also tackled for a safety in the first quarter.
In other words, things never really went McNabb's way, even when there was an opportunity for something good. In the first quarter, McNabb threw a perfectly-placed ball to Bernard Berrian on a third-down slant pattern, which he dropped.
You kind of felt at that point that the black cloud began to settle over McNabb's head.
And thus it was only a matter of time before coach Leslie Frazier made his decision to go with the 12th overall pick of the 2010 draft. Ponder, 23, relieved McNabb, 34, in the fourth quarter with the Vikings definitively on their way to a 1-5 record. After all, the score was 39-10.
Ponder, ironically enough, looked like McNabb in his heyday, scrambling on his first two snaps for positive yardage (though the second run was called back thanks to a holding penalty on offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson). Then, after a pass to running back Adrian Peterson that resulted in no yards, Ponder was able to complete a 2nd and 20 pass to Percy Harvin for a first down.
The Vikings lost the game, but saw a quarterback that looked composed and ready to grow under center. At times, he was erratic, but more importantly, he showed mobility and confidence in the pocket. Frazier even said he was impressed by the way Ponder moved the team up the field. Ponder, at the end of the day, went 9 for 17 with 99 passing yards.
Up to this point in the season for the Vikings, McNabb hasn't been what they had hoped for. He has 1,026 passing yards, four touchdown passes and an average 82.9 quarterback rating. His deep ball days seem numbered as well, as he only has three completions longer than 35 yards this season.
Frazier informed Ponder on Tuesday afternoon that he will start against the Green Bay Packers next Sunday and informed McNabb that he was being demoted.
The Vikings could make a strong argument that, despite the lack of development time for Ponder, playing the rookie is not only good for the future but the right move to give the offense more life for the present. McNabb just hasn't been the same since he left Philadelphia and sticking with him could bring the team further down a crack they're struggling to climb out of.
The defending champion and undefeated Packers appear on the schedule for two of the next three games, but Frazier said the quality of the opponent won't factor into the evaluation.
The only qualifier is what's best for our team, and that will be the criteria we use when we sit down and continue these discussions over the next couple days, Frazier said Monday.
Frazier praised Ponder as well, a sign that the rookie will start the rest of the season.
For a guy who gets limited reps in practice, it seems he had a good grasp, like we thought he would, of our offense.