Wetmore: Let's calm down on Christian Ponder's 'it factor,' shall we?
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'Christian Ponder doesn't have the 'it factor' and thus the Vikings are screwed.'
That's the popular opinion being bandied about by fans and media types these days.
I disagree with that, and fully embrace that the following opinion will be unpopular: Winning begets the "it" factor among quarterbacks, not the other way around.
And just to be clear, I agree Ponder doesn't have that bravado or brash confidence that people are talking about when they use the ambiguous "it" terminology. I'll ignore for now the clichéd phrasing to get to the crux of the issue.
So Ponder doesn't have a cocky swagger. What would we think about him if he had a few poor seasons, had Adrian Peterson buoy the team to the playoffs with an amazing individual season, and then walk around like he owned the place? Or if he felt he was in the same category as Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers?
"My gosh, what an arrogant son of a gun; what has he ever done on his own?"
As has been written on this site and elsewhere, year three is a big year for quarterbacks, whether real or perceived. Ponder could take the next step forward, become a mid-tier or better NFL quarterback, and force logical fans to put away their pitchforks.
Or he could become Joey Harrington.
But my overarching point is his career arc won't be determined by his confidence or attitude. Rather, his confidence will be defined by his career arc.
If he steps up and becomes Joe Flacco or Eli Manning or some other former-cast-off-turned-franchise-quarterback, then he should be conditionally very confident. A prematurely inflated opinion of himself, however, won't force this evolution.
Now, I've never been accused of being a Vikings fan. But count me among the optimists for Ponder, at least relative to what seems to be public perception. As long as Peterson stays healthy, Ponder doesn't have to be great for this offense to score points. And besides a thin and troublesome corner situation, the defense figures to be strong. Ponder is capable of leaning on Peterson, using Kyle Rudolph as a safety blanket, and getting the ball to the athletic Cordarrelle Patterson in open space.
If he avoids tons of turnovers, his offense will score points and the Vikings can win some games. If that happens, it's logical to assume some pep in Ponder's step will follow.
It's a fun narrative to perpetuate, but having Ponder flash false nerves of steel won't take this team from, say, 8-8 to 12-4.