Vikings have '100 percent belief' in QB Christian Ponder, GM says
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman didn't reveal much in his interview since the season began.
But he made one thing crystal clear during a roughly 38-minute session with a small group of reporters on Wednesday morning at Winter Park.
"I know everybody in this organization believes Christian Ponder is our guy," Spielman said, "and I have full, 100 percent belief that Christian Ponder's going to be our quarterback heading into the future."
Ponder, the 12th overall draft pick out of Florida State in 2011, got off to an encouraging start in his first full season as the starter before hitting a rough patch for several weeks.
He rebounded to complete 24 of 32 passes (75%) for 221 yards, two touchdowns and a 114.2 rating in Sunday's 34-24 win over Detroit, which sent the Vikings into their bye week at 6-4 and at least temporarily quieted calls for a change.
"Those are things that you look at when you're developing a young quarterback, is OK, he had a hiccup for a couple weeks -- how does he respond?" Spielman said. "Well, he came out of that and responded pretty well last week. I think he ended up with a 114 quarterback rating and was very productive and probably would have been more productive, but we had a few dropped balls here and there, too.
"So, those are the signs that you're looking at, not only from his physical ability, but how he handles the pressure at that position from the mental standpoint, too."
Spielman praised offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave for his game plan in the absence of top receiver Percy Harvin (ankle).
He also suggested he liked the fact Ponder went to the podium after the game and made a joke about the help he received from his girlfriend, ESPN personality Samantha Steele, who has been the subject of scrutiny during the quarterback's slump.
"You have to have stuff roll off your back at that position, just like a head coach or general manager," Spielman said. "You know there's going to be -- the praises come with that position, but the heavy criticisms come with that position, too. But you have to have the mental makeup to be able to handle all of that."
Without actually saying the word "patience," Spielman emphasized the Vikings need time to gather information on Ponder, like any other player.
Spielman also said he predicted Ponder's statistics based on those of other second-year quarterbacks who turned into stars and "it's pretty phenomenal" how close it matches Ponder's arc, though he declined to get into specifics.
In 11 games (10 starts) last season, Ponder was 158-of-291 passing (54.3%) for 1,853 yards, 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 70.1 rating. In 10 starts this season, Ponder is 206-of-316 passing (65.2%) for 2,027 yards, 12 touchdowns, eight interceptions and an 85.2 rating.
"I always have followed the three-year rule," Spielman said. "The quarterback position -- you've got to remember, our guy's only in his second year. You look at the history of development of quarterbacks and I've talked to you guys a lot about that and where they come.
"I know they're getting measured regardless if they're a rookie or second-year (player). They're going to get evaluated from the outside and from the media on their performance that week. But you have to be, from an internal standpoint, looking at the whole picture and looking at a length of time."