When the Vikings acquired Donovan McNabb just after the lockout ended, the hope was that he'd give them a Brett Favre-like spark. In turn, McNabb had hoped to revitalize his career after being benched in Washington in favor of Rex Grossman. However, after a 1-5 start, McNabb soon found himself relegated to the bench again, with rookie Christian Ponder being named the starter. The following gives you five reasons why the Vikes made the right move.
One of the reasons the McNabb experiment has failed in Minnesota is his lack of a consistent work ethic. Starting in 2004, when Terrell Owens stated that the Eagles lost the Super Bowl due to his lack of endurance, McNabb's commitment to football has been questioned.
Ponder, on the other hand, is an eager rookie chomping at the bit to crack the lineup and start his career. Having earned his degree at Florida State in just two-and-a-half years, Ponder certainly possess both the skills and the want to learn the offense quickly and be successful.
With McNabb at the helm, the Vikings offense was fairly mundane, routinely featuring dink and dunk passes in multiple tight end sets. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave had aspirations of stretching the field, but Minnesota was unable to do so with Donovan throwing the passes.
Enter Ponder, whose presence immediately made a difference. On his very first play as a starter against the rival Packers, Ponder rolled out to his left and hit Michael Jenkins down the sideline with a 72-yard bomb. Ponder has provided the Vikings with a more lethal passing game to go along with All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, and thus a more stable offensive attack.
Another reason for McNabb's unceremonious benching was his inability to make simple accurate throws. McNabb would often halt drives due to his poor throws on third-down plays. Some faulted his footwork while others said it was just a lack of inspiration to play on his part. Personally, I think it's his decrease in arm strength that's led to a lack of accuracy.
Since being inserted into the lineup, Ponder has shown both above average arm strength, as well as better accuracy than McNabb, specifically on more difficult throws. This was highlighted in his start against the Packers when Ponder threw a 20-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins (seen above).
Jenkins was locked in tight coverage with Charles Woodson on the play. Anticipating Woodson would undercut the route as he had done before in the game, Ponder threw it high and away from him to where only Jenkins could catch the ball. Quite a throw for a rookie in his first-ever start.
Though known for his ability to run for most of his career, in recent years, McNabb's running skills have drastically diminished. This issue became even more magnified with the poor offensive line that the Vikings have. When he wasn't hitting the turf, McNabb was rushing decisions or making errant throws without setting his feet. Throwing on the run, his accuracy suffered even more, as McNabb could routinely been seen throwing balls in front of wide open receivers.
Ponder has shown an impressive ability to throw while on the move. In turn, Musgrave and the Vikings coaching staff have altered their play calling in order to suit Ponder's strengths, calling more roll outs and bootlegs to keep him moving. Ponder has also shown the ability to improvise and pick up some yards with his legs. Overall, he's just looked more fitting in the Vikings offense than McNabb ever did, certainly more exciting.
Yes, while the No. 1 reason Christian Ponder is superior to Donovan McNabb might seem basic, it's certainly not debatable. McNabb was signed on a one-year deal as a sort of mentor to Ponder—there's no future for him in Minnesota; there was never going to be. He was signed as a placeholder who would hopefully find a resurgence of some sort and lead the Vikings to the playoffs this year.
By Week 7, the week of his benching, it was clear this wasn't going to happen. So Minnesota was left with only one choice: play the kid and see what he's got. So far through two career starts, Ponder has performed well, throwing for 455 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
In the process, he's given the Vikings and their fans hope—hope that the franchise will be quickly turned around to the NFC Championship caliber team that it was two years ago; hope that Donovan McNabb cannot give them.