I’ve pretty much run this topic into the ground, but I haven’t been able to touch on it since I was on vacation and the Vikings won in London. Anyone who thinks Matt Cassel should be the starter for the Vikings going forward, and believes he should be because the Vikings are a better team with him at the helm is flagrantly wrong.
Let me highlight a few things based on their talent level and skill set first. Matt Cassel won last week, yes. The Vikings defense finally got a stop late in the game, where they hadn’t in the previous two weeks against Cleveland and Chicago. It was the first time this season that Vikings’ opposition scored less than 30 points. Neither Christian Ponder nor Matt Cassel play defense.
I think it’s valuable to look at the teams both quarterbacks have squared off against this season. Christian Ponder has faced teams that are 6-4 against teams that aren’t the Vikings. Cassel’s win came over a hapless Steelers team that hasn’t won a game yet. It would be a surprise to listen to local fans to find out that Christian Ponder’s QBR against Cleveland (a measure of a quarterback’s contribution to a team’s chance of winning) was higher than Cassel’s against Pittsburgh. Then again, you would think that being competitive against a first place team (Cleveland) would take a little more skill than being competitive against a terrible, winless team (Pittsburgh).
Oh, it has been pointed out to me that the Cleveland game was Ponder’s best this season. He had 9 starts last season that would have surpassed Cassel’s QBR of 52 last year. Matt Cassel had a total QBR of 36.4 in Kansas City last year. In fact. when he went to Kansas City, the highest QBR he ever posted for a season was 52. While I may have cherry-picked Ponder’s best game this season, it certainly wasn’t a fluke.
And while you may say that Kansas City was a tough place for Matt Cassel to play, because all they had was a good running back with few targets to throw to, I say…. what was the difference between the Chiefs and Vikings, in that case? I would argue that after Percy Harvin was injured, Cassel had better targets to throw to than Ponder did. Sure, the Vikings had Peterson, but were the offenses that substantially different? Are they that different now, with Alex Smith running things? Why are the Chiefs playing so much better? Is Alex Smith really that good?
On that same note, in response to those who say that Christian Ponder doesn’t open up the field for Adrian Peterson, I say Adrian Peterson nearly broke an NFL record for yards last year. The field is plenty open.
From the perspective of team building, I don’t understand the yearning for Matt Cassel. At best, he gives the Vikings the same chance to win as Christian Ponder. In truth, it’s just a matter of time before Cassel proves how bad he is. Will Ponder haters eat crow and call for him to come back? Probably not, of course, because that’s not how people work. Christian Ponder is still in his second full year as a starter, and he showed significant improvement last year. Why focus so intently on giving up on Ponder when the team has so many other obvious holes?