While other young quarterbacks exceed early expectations, Vikes QB regresses.

Perhaps what’s most frustrating for Vikings fans this season, when it comes to the quarterback play of Christian Ponder, is that the team wasn’t supposed to be any good. Even in today’s parity-filled NFL, where last year’s 3-13 disaster can easily, with a couple tweaks of the roster and a decent draft, become this year’s 10-6 playoff team, everyone, it seems, picked the Vikings to finish last in the mighty NFC North division, and it wasn’t even close. The Vikes were supposed to be just plain bad, again.

    But the Vikings are not bad. Sure, the first half of their schedule was relatively easy, compared to a brutal last half, but the defense has played half-decent, Percy Harvin, before hurting his ankle, was playing at an all-pro level, and…Adrian Peterson? What can you say? The running back is a freak of nature, a dedicated, never say die warrior.

    But the defense, Harvin, and especially Peterson…they deserve better than this.

    Still, it’s implied by those who apparently know more than the fans that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year. The Vikings weren’t supposed to be fighting for a playoff spot. This was supposed to be a season to evaluate Ponder for a full 16 games, on the heels of him being forced into action last season as a rookie after the Donovan McNabb experiment imploded in epic fashion.

    What we’ve learned after 11 games and, especially during the past month or so, is that Ponder is the weakest link in the Purple chain, and you’re only as good as your weakest link. What has happened to him over the past few games is not revolutionary by any stretch. He started off the season strong, with crisp throws, smart decisions and hardly a turnover. Then defensive coordinators got a look at him on film, made some adjustments as they sought to find ways they could mess with his mind and body, and Ponder has yet to adjust to those changes. Nor, apparently, has his coaching staff, it should be noted. And, yes, wouldn’t it be nice if his receivers, excluding Harvin and tight end Kyle Rudolph, could not only get open but catch the ball, too?

    We hear it all the time from young professional athletes. They talk about how, early on, the game is so fast and they have a hard time adjusting to the speed. But as they gain some experience and enjoy a smidgen of success, the game starts to slow down for them. Before you know it, they’re pretty darn good, maybe even really good.

    But for Ponder, the game of football is currently played at warp speed. While other NFL quarterbacks, even a few rookies and second-year QBs drafted before and even after Ponder seem to be adjusting to the speed and demands of the most important position in sports, Ponder is regressing. While other rookie and second-year quarterbacks slide a little to the left or right in the pocket to create time and space, or step up a little bit to get a better view of things, Ponder seems to be in full sprint to the left or right about two seconds after every snap. He’s one jumpy dude.

    But he has the full confidence of the coach and general manager who drafted him, much earlier than most experts thought Ponder would be picked. In a Star-Tribune story from this past weekend, Ponder said it feels so great to know that he “doesn’t have to worry about” being benched.

    So what we’re witnessing is Ponder playing without a care in the world, foot-loose and fancy free? Wow. Imagine him playing all stressed out. Yikes.

    But maybe a little stress is what he needs. Tell him he needs to play well against Green Bay this Sunday or he’ll be benched. After all, what does the team have to lose? With each sub-par performance by Ponder, the playoffs are that much more of an unrealistic goal.