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Updated: October 23rd, 2013 3:30pm
Zulgad: Vikings' handling of QB situation makes little sense

Zulgad: Vikings' handling of QB situation makes little sense

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Vikings decision to name Rick Spielman as general manager in 2012 was applauded because it removed the possibility that a coach would make knee-jerk decisions based on getting short-term results.

The franchise's move to name Leslie Frazier coach a year before also was lauded because of the stability he brought to an organization that was in desperate need of calm after Brad Childress' tenure.

Perhaps that's why it's so perplexing to see these two gentlemen mismanaging the Vikings' quarterback situation so badly this season.

We were told Christian Ponder would be the starter all through training camp, but that changed after the Vikings started 0-3 and the 12th-overall pick in the 2011 draft suffered a rib injury.

Backup Matt Cassel took over and started the next two games, beating Pittsburgh and then losing to Carolina in a game in which the Vikings did not bother showing up. To put the Panthers loss solely on Cassel would be grossly unfair.

While Cassel was starting, Ponder recovered from his injury and the Vikings decided to sign Josh Freeman for the remainder of the season after he was let go by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ponder would have been fine to start last Monday night against the New York Giants, but the Vikings wanted to see what they had in Freeman so he got the nod. Ponder was the backup and Cassel found himself No. 3 on the depth chart.

Freeman, of course, was terrible and the situation was made far worse by an offensive game plan that ended up calling for him to throw 53 passes. He completed 20 of them, overthrew 15 intended targets and ended up with 190 yards passing.

On Tuesday, Frazier said Freeman would get the start on Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers. This made sense because the Vikings are 1-5, the season is lost and a decision needs to be made whether Freeman will be the guy going forward.

The only issue is that Frazier reversed course on Wednesday, told the media that Freeman had concussion-like symptoms coming out of Monday's game and gave every indication that Ponder will be the starter on Sunday.

How embarrassing has this become? Let's just say the 2013 Vikings are beginning to make the 2010 Vikings look like a model of consistency.

Whether you buy Freeman really has a concussion or not, isn't the point. The point is that putting Ponder back on the field has to leave everyone who knows anything about football shaking their head.

The running joke around Winter Park when Childress was running the show and attempting to prove that Tarvaris Jackson could be a starting quarterback in the NFL, was that Jackson was told, "you're our guy, you're our guy, you're our guy," only to then be informed, "you're not our guy."

This happened multiple times.

Jackson's replacements included Gus Frerotte, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger and Brett Favre. Some of them were far better than Jackson and some only slightly better, if that. The funny, or sad part, for Jackson was that he never really was the guy or never had the full confidence of anyone in the organization.

When Ponder recovered from his rib injury and remained benched, and also saw Freeman signed, one would have thought the Vikings' current brass would have learned their lesson from Childress' handling of Jackson.

Ponder doesn't have the confidence of the Vikings and would be better off getting a fresh start somewhere else, likely serving in a backup role.

The common sense move would have been to let Cassel start on Sunday and then give away to Freeman as soon as he's ready to return. Cassel isn't going to wow anyone, but at least you know what type of performance you're probably going to get and it's coming in a lost season.

Instead, the Vikings are turning to Ponder and putting themselves in a no-win situation. As my radio partner Jeff Dubay has said several times, if Ponder plays well against the Packers, the Vikings will be almost obligated to continue starting him.

The logical way that plays out is that Ponder might have a few good games before going back to being an average to below average quarterback. This will mean the Vikings have wasted their time, and probably Freeman's time, by having Ponder start again.

There might be some who believe that if Ponder has a good start on Sunday that Spielman will be able to trade him before Tuesday's deadline, but to think his value will go up is silly. Teams know the Vikings have given up on Ponder and no one is going to deal more than a late-round pick for him.

And what if Ponder has a poor game against the Packers?

In addition to making an already toxic environment in the Metrodome that much worse, it means Vikings players, especially the veterans, are going to be left shaking their heads even more about the decisions being made upstairs.

It also will serve as a reminder about just how wrong Spielman and Frazier were when they spent training camp stating their belief in Ponder.

This is not to say that Cassel is the answer, but it is to say he's the obvious choice while Freeman either recovers from a concussion or a bruised ego. Going back to Ponder now only makes an already lost season that much worse.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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