Minnesota Vikings: Why Joe Webb's Start Puts Heat Back on Christian Ponder

Chris Schad@@crishadContributor IIIJanuary 5, 2013

Christian Ponder didn't play a snap in Saturday's 24-10 loss to Green Bay, but his absence is a key story as the team heads to the offseason.
Christian Ponder didn't play a snap in Saturday's 24-10 loss to Green Bay, but his absence is a key story as the team heads to the offseason.USA TODAY Sports

On Friday evening, the Minnesota Vikings had a choice to make.

After leading the team to a 6-6 record through the first 13 weeks, quarterback Christian Ponder improved his play.

With four straight wins, the Vikings surged into the playoffs and looked to score an upset at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night.

The only problem was that Ponder had suffered a bruised elbow after banging it off the helmet of Morgan Burnett in the team's 37-34 victory against the Packers in Week 17.

After being limited in practice all week, head coach Leslie Frazier claimed that it was a non-issue all week long.

But then came Friday afternoon.

Ponder was slapped with a questionable tag on the Vikings' injury report for the game. It was an odd move considering he was only suffering from a bruised elbow.

However, Judd Zulgad of ESPN 1500 AM Twin Cities noted that the move was more gamesmanship than anything.

All through the regular season, Frazier knew he had one viable option at quarterback and that was Ponder. Joe Webb has proven before that he is a nice change of pace, but he is not the long-term solution for any team.

But for one game? One quarter? One half?

That's a different story.

The article later stated that with the Packers playing the Vikings twice, Webb would be the perfect surprise for two teams that had very little left to show.

One 24-10 Packer victory later, the spotlight got a lot brighter on Ponder.

Despite not playing a single snap during the game, Ponder's elbow became the main story. As Webb badly overthrew receivers, the camera kept showing a calm Ponder on the sidelines as a late-season surge was put to waste.

Now that the Webb move has backfired, people will want to know several things about the Vikings' franchise quarterback.

How hurt was Ponder? Could he have played through the pain? Did the windchill bother him? Was there something else going on behind the scenes? The answers to those questions we may never know.

Still, this was a playoff game. Several (and possibly a majority of) top signal-callers would have required their arm to be amputated in order to miss a playoff game against a division rival.

It's fair to say that Viking fans have plenty to question here.

As the offseason arrives, this may be what triggers general manager Rick Speilman to take a good look at his quarterback.

If there is more to this elbow injury, Spielman could bring in competition (such as San Francisco's Alex Smith) that could spell an early end to the Christian Ponder era in Minnesota.