It goes without saying that Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Christian Ponder, is struggling after a hot start to the season. He went four games without throwing an interception (the last starting NFL QB in 2012 to do so!), and was posting completion percentages above 60% for the first six games as well. But since then, Ponder hasn't been able to connect on more than 54% of his passes and has thrown for nearly 360 yards, TOTAL, in his last three games. Clearly teams have adjusted to his playing style and he has yet to do the same.
For some players, it's difficult to look at yourself on tape and realize what you're doing wrong, or what changes may help you fix your game and take you to the next level. For Ponder, that's ESPECIALLY difficult because he's just doing so many things wrong. So we at Purple Jesus Diaries have decided to help him out and break down undoctored, legitimate game pictures of him to help him understand what he needs to change to get back to being a successful NFL quarterback.
Pictures and suggestions after the jump:
EXAMPLE A: OK, here is the first example. As you can see, there are PLENTY of things that are wrong with this picture that are just butchering Ponder's chances of becoming a great NFL quarterback. So let's explore them in more detail:
1. First, he's looking the wrong way from where he's throwing the ball. While there is clear benefit to looking off a safety before throwing a pass, science has shown that when you're actually THROWING a ball, tossing to a target in your peripheral vision instead of in your direct sight is never as high percentage of a throw.
2. While you wouldn't think it'd make a big deal since it's his non-throwing had, you do have to consider the fact that Ponder appears to be a cripple by looking at his left hand in this picture. Living with that disability every day must be difficult, and clearly it is influencing his play.
3. Finally, the ball in this picture is clearly being shot from his forearm like it's some type of projectile weapon. This clearly works for quarterbacks who are part robot like Peyton Manning, but Ponder is a human being, and needs to develop better mechanics that include gripping a ball, and throwing it in a forward motion. Lobbing a football off of one's forearm is bound to end up as a lazy pass, which can easily be picked off.
EXAMPLE B: This example similarly shows what's wrong with his decision making and throwing motion, as we'll break down a bit further in each point:
1. Ponder clearly tried a different throwing motion in this image after his "Rocket Arm" attempt didn't work. Well, this one isn't working either. Call it the Overhand Toss or the Granny Pass, but throwing a football downward at your receiver's feet with two hands is a low percentage attempt. Again, he needs to find a one handed, forward throwing motion as was first developed by the Native American people of this land who would throw rocks at White settlers.
2. On display in this photo as well is Ponder's poor decision making. He's clearly trying to throw to someone like Michael Jenkins or Allen Reisner off screen in this shot, while the best football player on the planet in Adrian Peterson is wide open, with no defender around him, directly to his right. I guess I can't tell if Peterson was maybe his second or third read on this play (NO WAY was he the fourth option!), but Ponder needs to go through all of them before deciding who he will pass to.
3. Finally, his posture is completely wrong in this photo. You can tell that he's wound himself up like a Weeble Wobble and rocked his body forward at the waist in an effort to get more forward momentum on his attempted two handed pass here. It didn't work, obviously, and someone needs to teach him to drive with his legs better on passes.
EXAMPLE C: This third example is perhaps the most galling example of all why Ponder has been struggling. As we break down the details here, keep in mind that this is a QUARTERBACK, not a child dressed up for Halloween:
1. First, his eyes are closed. Closed! He's gone from throwing to someone by guessing who his target is in his peripheral vision to not even bothering to look at them. Is this like Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Or are we just pinning the loss on the quarterback? The only reason I would allow this is if he was a Force adept, and clearly he thinks all that stuff is still some kind of hokey religion and ancient form of football.
2. But you can see what the repercussions are. Instead of grabbing onto a football to attempt a pass, Ponder instead found his facemask and was attempting to throw his own head during the play. You can even see Toby Gerhart attempting to run up behind him and orient him properly before a sack occurs, but it was probably to no avail.
3. Finally, and this has always been his biggest misstep, he continues to insist that he wear a shirt on the field when playing. Doing so restricts his natural movements and abilities, limiting him in both physical capabilities and intellectual potential. Removing the shirt while playing would show him a sense of freedom he's NEVER experienced, and really rally the crowd behind him. Even during away games!
EXAMPLE D: In this final example, we see a couple of additional problems that creep up in recent play from Christian Ponder:
1. Ponder by no means is a seasoned veteran NFL player, but he has played his fair share of games in college and now at the pro level where he shouldn't be so distracted by this juvenile attempt by Clemmons to distract the quarterback. Yet, it still somehow worked. Clearly, throwing your hands up and yelling loudly still convinced Ponder he should throw the ball in your general direction so you may either knock it down or intercept it yourself. Hopefully a better defense like the Bears aren't aware of this tactic.
2. Also, skipping through your drops, roll outs, or follow throughs has never proven to be an effective way to pass the ball. But it's not just the skipping, it's the pointing of the toes and the elevation of the entire body off the ground, so you hover somewhere between a "ski," a "kick" and a "jump pass." This shot veers dangerously close into the jump pass territory, something which has been proven to spell disaster for several teams.
But hope is not lost. Hopefully by taking in the notes we've left here, Christian Ponder will be able to right the ship and lead the team to additional wins this season, and at least allow us to flirt with a playoff spot. Do you think he has it in him to learn from his mistakes? Let us know in the comments.