Although there were some real bright spots to Christian Ponder's rookie season as a Minnesota Viking, they seem foggy when put in the context of his beleaguered organisation's overall campaign in 2011. The Vikes were beset by injuries—notably to Adrian Peterson, whose absence was arguably a catalyst for the 3-13 season they struggled through.
However, while the former Florida State Seminole will benefit from a full offseason, one teammate in particular will help Ponder start the process of becoming Minnesota's franchise quarterback on the right foot.
Not Jared Allen, elite defensive end coming off a 22-sack season.
Not Matt Kalil, tackle, fourth overall pick in this year's draft straight out of USC.
No, the one teammate that can transform Ponder's season from unremarkable to something of a success is Percy Harvin, Minnesota's best talent at wide receiver.
It's hard to doubt the efforts Minnesota has made to aid Ponder's growth following his ascension to the role of starter—drafting Kalil, giving Ponder the protection he sorely needs, is a testament to this. But ask Matthew Stafford, for example, of the importance of having a go-to guy at wide receiver. A partnership which can connect regularly and with real reward.
Few could argue against the Stafford/Calvin Johnson connection's abundant accomplishments on the field. And while neither Ponder or Harvin may yet be up to the standards of their NFC North counterparts in the silver and blue, the model can serve as a genuine example.
Harvin enjoyed the best statistical year of his career in 2011, with just 33 yards shy of 1,000 receiving to his name and six touchdowns scored. And even though a trade request would make it seem like Harvin wanted out, inactivity on that front would suggest he's now more content than before to stay in Minnesota and help Ponder prosper.
With Harvin firmly on board, Ponder can begin to create a reliable partnership with the Vikings' brightest wideout, and creating that connection will build confidence for both parties. While Ponder does have other wideouts at his disposal (notably Devin Aromashodu and the newly-acquired, acrobatic Jerome Simpson), as well as a very promising sophomore tight end in Kyle Rudolph, Harvin is surely the one to make a "Stafford-Megatron-esque" connection with.
In putting their faith in Ponder, Minnesota has made a real leap of faith, hoping Ponder, alongside the likes of Harvin, Peterson, Allen and Kalil, can restore some real success to this long vexed organisation.
Ponder and Harvin certainly both have bags of potential to become real successes in the NFL, but it's likely Ponder, and his Minnesota Vikings, will be depending on Harvin's presence to find fortune in the NFC North and beyond in years to come.