Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Are Ponder's days numbered?
Even though Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier stated that Christian Ponder is still the team's quarterback following the win in London, the reality is that unless Matt Cassel is injured or goes completely in the tank, Ponder is done starting games for Minnesota.
Frazier did what a coach is supposed to do. He stated the organization's point of view without backing the team into a corner.
The team has a bye this week, and there's no reason for Frazier to make any definitive statement about the quarterback situation. Frazier's comments also leave some room for maneuvering.
When the Vikings get ready to play Carolina on October 13, Frazier can say that Cassel will start because Ponder is still recovering from a fractured rib. If Cassel plays well, Frazier can simply say that the Vikings are staying with the hot hand for the next game. If Cassel doesn't play well, Ponder can be re-inserted into the lineup and Frazier can claim that the job was Ponder's all along.
Frazier, currently in the last year of his contract, would be foolish to mess with success. He needs the team to win games if he's going to keep his job. Simply put, he needs to keep Cassel on the field in order to give the team its best chance to win.
As Judd Zulgad of 1500 ESPN states, Cassel brings something to the table that Ponder was clearly lacking.
What Cassel gave the Vikings was the threat of a quarterback who could complete passes on a consistent basis and also throw the ball down the field. This meant the Steelers had no choice but to show some respect for a Vikings passing game that far too often has been easy to ignore.
It's pretty simple. Cassel's passer rating is 123.4. Ponder's is 65.9. Cassel made some iffy throws on Sunday, but he made them with authority. He checked out of a running play on one third down and zipped a pass to Jerome Simpson that garnered the team a crucial first down.
Ponder too often looks confused in the pocket. His passes lack zip, and it frequently appears as if he's playing to avoid mistakes as opposed to attacking defenses.
There's little doubt that Cassel gives the team a better chance to win. Ponder is squarely on the hot seat, if not already on his way out.