Here we are at Week 7 of the 2013 NFL Season, and the Vikings will be starting their 3rd QB of the season. How did we get to this point? Allow me to give you my opinion on this matter.
Going into the season, Ponder was the guy. The staff stood by his side, never once wavering. To shore up the position, during the off season they signed veteran Matt Cassel, in large part because the Joe Webb experiment was officially killed during the playoff game last season. Everyone at that time realized that Webb was probably never going to be an NFL QB, so enter Cassel. In my opinion a very wise signing. Someone to push Ponder, and someone to fill in to avoid another Webb collapse.
Ponder struggled in each of his starts, though the offense was able to put points on the board. Aside from play calling, offensive line play, or anything else that may or may not have an effect on QB play, Ponder never really passed my eye test. I thought he abandoned the pocket early, floated passes, and missed receivers. He has always floated his passed, and never really had the zip on his passes I thought was necessary to succeed as an NFL QB. I supported him up until this year, when my support slowly went the way of the dodo bird.
Enter Matt Cassel and the hapless Pittsburgh Steelers. My wife and I had the opportunity to attend that game, and I can tell you things felt and looked different. The offense seemed to have tempo, passes appeared to have more zip, and we looked like a different team. I will be the first to say that Cassel was helped immensely with a couple of picks that were dropped, and a nice run by Jennings that led to a TD. But still, a win is a win, and Cassel got us there. I never believed for a moment that Cassel was the long term answer, but I did secretly hope that either Ponder’s ribs did not heal, or that the coaching staff would go with the guy that put them in the W column.
After the bye (and plenty of time for ribs to heal) Carolina comes into the dome, and by all means should be a very winnable game. We played about as flat as 5 week old potato chips, and we were throttled, and Cassel looked very Ponder like. Not at all what I was expecting. As a pro athlete, fighting for a starting job, that is what I would call a statement game. Unfortunately, Cassel made the wrong statement.
Fortunately in the meantime the front office decided to go after recently released Freeman, a move which I supported (even after my wife defined him as “fine”). I had seen him play twice, and he absolutely destroyed the Vikings. Freeman brings a stronger arm and has zip to his passes. His pocket presence looks stronger, and I think he is an upgrade over either of our previous QB’s. He needs to hit the field sooner rather than later, and we need to know if he can be our QB of the future or not.
If the Freeman experiment is successful, we can focus our draft on other positions of need, allowing us to continue to build for the future. If Freeman is not the answer, we will likely be drafting a QB early in the draft, ignore other positions, and set us back another year. I for one hope the Freeman experiment works out, and I will gladly get my wife a Freeman jersey for her to wear proudly.