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Updated: August 27th, 2013 9:31am
P.J.R.: Ponder could be Gannon, Harrington ... or Tarvaris

P.J.R.: Ponder could be Gannon, Harrington ... or Tarvaris

by Patrick Reusse
1500ESPN.com
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Making comparisons with athletes past is a popular activity with both the sports media and fans. Following Sunday night's exhibition loss in San Francisco, the topic in Minnesota remained Christian Ponder and what he will bring as the Vikings quarterback in his third season.

There was an e-mail after the game from a long-time Vikings follower that said: "Ponder reminds me of Rich Gannon when he first played for the Vikings ... a good athlete who didn't have the strongest arm and was erratic with his throws.''

When I arrived at Hubbard headquarters early Monday afternnon and entered the hub of activity that is "prep room'' for 1500ESPN, Phil Mackey said: "I've come up with a comparsion for Ponder?''

"Rich Gannon?'' I said.

"Joey Harrington,'' Mackey replied.

I'm guessing that Vikings fans would prefer the e-mailed suggestion of Gannon over Harrington, the No. 3 overall pick in 2002, and the worst of all the selections made by Matt Millen in his horrendous run as the football boss of the Detroit Lions.

Trouble is, the Gannon comparsion is hard to make with Ponder, who enters his third season with 26 NFL starts and with a continued commitment from General Manager Rick Spielman that he is the Vikings' answer at quarterback.

Spielman is almost required to feel that way, since he used the No. 12 overall selection on Ponder in 2011.

The accusation at the time was Spielman had reached substantially to take a quarterback with an erratic history at Florida State. It looks even more like a reach today, when considering that the next two quarterbacks taken in that draft were Andy Dalton by Cincinnati and Colin Kaepernick by San Francisco with the third and fourth choices in the second round.

Gannon was a fourth-rounder taken by New England in 1987. The Patriots wanted to convert the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Delaware to running back. Gannon wanted a shot at quarterback, Vikings CEO Mike Lynn had been talking him up (privately) before the draft, and Minnesota traded for him.

Gannon had to wait until 1990, his fourth season, to get a chance to play regularly. If Ponder doesn't pick it up in 2013, he might not make it to a fourth season in Minnesota.

Gannon wound up crossways with coach Dennis Green, was traded by the Vikings to Washington in August 1993, overcame shoulder surgery and wound up as the NFL's MVP for Oakland in 2002 at age 37.

Maybe that will be Ponder a dozen years from now. Right now, the Mackeyiism seems more realistic: Ponder = Harrington.

Harrington started 12 games as a rookie in 2002 and all 16 in 2003. Ponder started 10 in 2011 and the 16 regular-season games in 2012.

Ponder's ratio of 31 touchdown passes to 25 interceptions has been subpar. His quarterback ratings of 70.1 and 81.2 and his passing average of 177 yards per game also have been supbar by today's standards.

Then again, Harrington threw 29 touchdowns and 38 interceptions in his first two seasons, he had quarterback ratings of 59.9 and 63.9, and his passing average was 171 yards.

I don't see Ponder as a guy who spends 18 seasons in the NFL, throws for 4,689 yards as a 37-year-old and becomes the MVP. And, I don't think we can accuse him of being the second coming of Joey Harrington, either.

If you just go by the eyeball test, my comparison for Ponder is Tarvaris Jackson, but I don't have the numbers to prove it. Jackson started only 14 games his first two seasons. He then started two games to open the 2008, then was benched in favor of veteran Gus Frerotte.

Now, if we see Ponder on the sideline and veteran Matt Cassel starting the home opener vs. Cleveland on Sept. 22, then I win the comparison contest.

--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse
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