Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson endorsed backup quarterback Matt Cassel as the permanent starter after Cassel led the team to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
This endorsement came in an after-game interview, officially stirring a quarterback controversy in Minnesota.
While Vikings’ coach Leslie Frazier made an attempt to get out in front of the situation, he essentially made it worse with his noncommittal, committal of Christian Ponder as the team’s starter.
I understand Frazier’s reasoning though. It would be a fallacy to abandon the Ponder project so early, especially in favor of a 31-year-old quarterback who hasn’t really done much in his career.
Cassel has had to play the last four years in Todd Haley’s inefficient offense. He really hasn’t been in much of a position to succeed at the quarterback position besides that one year with the Patriots.
I’m not sure if Peterson knows much about Cassel’s history in the league but he does know one thing: Cassel is a leader.
Peterson raved about Cassel’s presence and vocal leadership in the huddle.
Cassel threw two touchdowns and most importantly, no interceptions on Sunday. Ponder has only two touchdown passes in three games and has already tossed five interceptions this season.
Cassel may not be an elite passer but he could be a solid game manager who puts his team in position to win or at least not to lose the way Alex Smith has done in San Francisco and now in Kansas City.
And with a stud like Adrian Peterson in your backfield you shouldn’t need to do much anyway. Peterson forces defenses to pay focus on Minnesota’s running game opening up passing lanes for the Vikings to make plays through the air.
The first reason is because the Vikings were 0-3 with Ponder at the helm. Secondly, because Peterson really wants to break the single-season rushing record and his best chance to accomplish that is now while he is in his prime.
And Matt Cassel may give him a better chance to break that record.
Cassel won’t be under the same kind of pressure he faced in Kansas City which may help him thrive. Plus, Cassel is in a better offensive system than the one he play in with the Chiefs.
Besides, promoting Cassel doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on Ponder.
Tennessee Titan’s quarterback Jake Locker was taken three spots ahead of Ponder in the 2011 Draft. Locker got to learn behind another past-his-prime quarterback and has become a very solid quarterback for Tennessee.
Minnesota really didn’t have the luxury of bringing Ponder along slowly and it shows in his play. Maybe allowing him to learn behind a veteran like Cassel could help excel his development.
If nothing it will at least give the Vikings a chance to win this year. At some point either later this season or next they can give Ponder another shot to prove himself and if he flops again then they can move on.
Of course Cassel could totally screw the pooch next game making this whole conversation moot. If he continues to play well though, Vikings’ fans can thank Peterson for pushing the issue.
In the end Coach Frazier may be thanking him too if Cassel is able to help him keep his job. Not many coaches survive a season where they start out 0-3.