Leslie Frazier is a defensive coach. He still understand offenses, though. When the name “Christian Ponder” is read off the card next Thursday, it won’t be solely about what Ponder can do to defenses and how he meshes with the Minnesota offense. His selection has a little to do with Favre, a little to do with T-Jack and a lot to do with Ryan Mallett.
1. Frazier comes from the Tony Dungy School of Leadership. Frazier talks all the time about leadership. He talked about how no one is bigger than the team when he took over November 22nd. He talked about the leader Favre was when he said he never questioned him as starter. Dungy, Frazier, Tomlin, and Morris all have their differences but they love to consider themselves leaders and molders of men. Think of how Mewelde Moore spoke of Frazier. Frazier wants that sort of inspirational fire in his quarterback as an extension of himself on the field.
Christian Ponder led by example and played through an elbow injury his last year. He has that intangible “alpha male” quality. I know Trent Dilfer is a bad name among Minnesota fans, but he had some interesting thoughts about quarterback when talking with Bill Simmons on his podcast. He talked about how Mark Sanchez has a sort of “leader of the pack” bravado where he inspires confidence in the rest of his huddle. He said that Sanchez’s leadership ability made him more organically a quarterback than his peers. Ponder has that. We might not read much into someone’s body language or their demeanor, but I think Leslie Frazier does look for someone stoic and confident to lead. Ponder can also be enthusiastic and in-your-face at times.
2. Frazier has been gunning down talks of rebuilding. Who’s the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft? Ponder played in a pro-style offense at Florida State and was able to do all the things asked of him at the Senior Bowl (MVP) and the Combine.
The ironic thing is I have Gabbert ranked overall ahead of him. I’ll even openly acknowledge that Newton, Mallett, Taylor, even Locker COULD have better careers than Ponder. But, I would argue that Ponder is the most ready right now and the most intelligent (undergraduate degree in finance, earned his MBA and will be halfway through a master’s). They can’t trade up for Newton or Gabbert. Locker doesn’t have the most important things down yet: accuracy and decision-making.
I can tell you why Mallett isn’t going to be taken 12th. Three words: recreational drug use. I love the honesty of Mallett, but didn’t he also deny the rumors? It has nothing to do with which drugs or how long ago. It doesn’t even have to do with drugs. For someone like Frazier was a part of the Dungy tree and talks all the time about leadership, teamwork and accountability, he wants someone who is crazy about football. For quarterback, coaches like Frazier don’t want guys who just do the bare minimum or maybe put in a little extra like Romo supposedly does. He wants someone who will eat, drink, and sleep Viking football and any sort of “recreation”, whether that be a serious interest in another sport, a love for celebrity (Leinart, Newton) or even just a preference to hang out with non-Vikings, that will likely put you below Ponder. The reason people question Romo – other than for his big game blunders – is that he is a quiet guy and has formed tight bonds with Witten and former cowboy Carpenter but is not as hands-on as Jon Kitna.
3. Frazier may have been smitten by Ponder before Senior Bowl week, but witnessing him there in person might have solidified it.
4. Christian Ponder will NOT be available when they pick again in the second round. He’s not even making it out of the second round. The Vikings don’t have a third-rounder to even try to move up should they want to move back into the first to get him. Rather than roll the dice and move down too far (past Miami would be too far) to take him, I expect Minnesota will stay put and know that Favre’s work is now finished.
The Complete Works of Favre:
1. He got Childress fired. His trademark INT began to seal Childress’ fate. If Childress had been to a Super Bowl, I doubt Zygi fires him a year later.
2. His training camp boycott showed Frazier what he really wants in a quarterback: teamwork. The fact that the Gunslinger looked so out of it early in the season proved Childress made a bad decision not requiring him to be in Mankato. That might be considered part of Favre’s first accomplishment but I think Frazier realized that he wants a guy he can count on.
3. He got injured, which led to another vivid reminder that intelligence is what keeps T-Jack from ever being “the guy”. Leave it to Favre and his conditioning (though, maybe that’s not what caused it) to miss his first game in his 19th season as a starter. But, he got hurt, Tarvaris got out there and did what he always does. He showed that scrambling ability against a bottom-feeding Patriots defense. He lit up a non-descript Bills defense. But then, he threw 3 interceptions to that same defense and would have thrown a fourth if not for an uncalled offensive pass interference by Sidney Rice.
4. His lack of chemistry caused a season that pushed them far enough up the draft board to take Christian Ponder.
If I were Rick Spielman, I’d take Christian Ponder, Virgil Green in the 2nd, spend all my next picks on offensive line and defensive BPA and finish off with Jeremiah Masoli in the 7th round. Then, if you get a veteran quarterback, Ponder can sit a year or two and win the position outright and Masoli can be molded cheaply to replace the veteran as the #2.
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