Thursday, September 5, 2013

In Case You Missed It - Vikings: Ponder Must Become Elite, Nothing Else Matters

This was originally posted back in March after the signing of Matt Cassell, but all holds true today. With the NFL season just around the corner, we felt it could be revisited. Enjoy again if you read it back in March, or pretend like it's new material if you missed it -

Greg Jennings, Brian Urlacher, the departure of Percy Harvin, the miracle that is Adrian Peterson, the draft picks, the sophomore campaigns of the great rookie class, Leslie Frazier’s coaching ability, Jared Allen aging, Cassel signing and the Antoine Winfield cutting, none of it matters.  Truly, not one of those things matter unless Christian Ponder is going to turn the corner towards becoming an elite quarterback.

The Vikings can make every right decision from now until the first snap of the regular season and still not be a contender if Ponder is as below average as we’ve seen throughout the majority of his career.

The Vikings did make the playoffs last year with Ponder being mostly an afterthought for opposing defenses.  That is true.  All it took was arguably the greatest season ever recorded by a running back.  I guess I can concede that if AP is going to be the Lebron James of the NFL again this year, maybe Ponder won’t need to take as big of leap in order for the Vikes to at least make the playoffs again.

To be reasonable though, AP likely isn’t going to top last year’s numbers.  Sorry, but when the NFL has only seen one season better than AP’s statistically since it’s inception in 1922, it is kind of tough to imagine it happening in back to back seasons.  It’s all on Ponder to get this team to the next level, and by next level I mean Super Bowl contender.

The proof is in the pudding, I’m not breaking news here, but the quarterback position alone is what makes a modern-day NFL team elite, average or bad.  The Vikings were a playoff team with an average Ponder, due again to AP’s excellence, even with that excellence in the playoff game sans an average Ponder and paired with a horrible quarterback in Joe Webb, the Vikings looked like one of the worst teams in the league.

It’s truly as simple as, “no QB = no Super Bowl” these days in the NFL.

The easiest way to prove that an elite QB is needed to win the Super Bowl is to just look at the past Super Bowl winners QB’s.  Let’s just look back to the 1999/2000 season.

Super Bowl Year – Winning Team – QB of Winning Team

2000 – St. Louis Rams – Kurt Warner

2001 – Baltimore Ravens – Trent Dilfer

2002 – New England Patriots – Tom Brady

2003 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Brad Johnson

2004 – New England Patriots – Tom Brady

2005 – New England Patriots – Tom Brady

2006 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger

2007 – Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning

2008 – New York Giants – Eli Manning

2009 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger

2010 – New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees

2011 – Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers

2012 – New York Giants – Eli Manning

2013 – Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco

There are two outliers on this list.  One played with arguably one of the best NFL defenses of all-time, Dilfer.  The other, Brad Johnson, had a Pro Bowl season in his Super Bowl year. Though his career doesn’t stack up with the others on this list, his Super Bowl season was close to elite.  Joe Flacco may not stack up yet either, but his career looks to be forming into possibly elite and seeing as he is now the highest paid player in the NFL, certainly the Ravens organization believe that he is already elite.

Looking at this list then you can conclude that 13 of the last 14 Super Bowls were won with a quarterback playing at an elite level in that championship year as well as, for the most part, in their careers.  Transversely, when you look at the Vikings best position currently, running back, only 3 of the last 14 Super Bowl winners (Mike Alstott went to the 2003 Pro Bowl but it was as a fullback) have had Pro Bowl running back seasons in the year that they won it all (Marshall Faulk - 2000, Corey Dillon - 2004 and Ray Rice - 2013).  The last running back to win Super Bowl MVP was Terrell Davis in 1998, while the quarterbacks have gone to the Pro Bowl in 7 of the last 14 seasons and won Super Bowl MVP in 9 of the last 14 Super Bowl winning seasons.

Another stat to chew on, in the past 14 seasons we have been looking at, the average quarterback rating during the regular season of the Super Bowl champion is 92.1.  Christian Ponder’s career QBR is 77.1 and he is coming off of his best season in which he had a QBR of 81.2.  If you're thinking maybe Matt Cassel will be the guy, I suggest you put down the meth.  Once you're done with that and scratching those invisible bugs crawling all over you, make a mental note that Cassel's career QBR is 80.4 and he is coming off a 66.7 QBR year that got him cut by Kansas City.

The point is, you can stress out about Greg Jennings, Brian Urlacher, the departure of Percy Harvin, the miracle that is Adrian Peterson, the draft picks, the sophomore campaigns of the great rookie class, Leslie Frazier’s coaching ability, Jared Allen aging and the Antoine Winfield cutting, but still none of it matters.  If you care about winning the Super Bowl, Christian Ponder’s development is the only thing that matters for the Minnesota Vikings to even get into the conversation.

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