For Vikings’ Matt Cassel it’s time to shine at Wembley stadium

Ponder is out with a fractured rib and Cassel will take his spot. But is Cassel good enough for the long term?

If there are any Minnesota Vikings fan out there who only bought a ticket to see starting quarterback Christian Ponder play at Wembley stadium against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, he shouldn’t hold his breath because it’s probably time to get a new Vikings jersey. (Why didn't you have AP in the first place?!)

The Minnesota Vikings announced this week that second string quarterback Matt Cassel will get the start in favour of Ponder, who is still suffering from a fractured rib. In last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns the bone fracture happened near his heart, so there are concerns of taking a hit in this week’s game.

The piquant detail in this story is that Ponder has no timeline for a return, head coach Leslie Frazier said. Although Frazier told reporters also the team wants Ponder to play there is more at stake here.

If Matt Cassel plays a little bit above average Christian Ponder is likely to stay on the bench despite being healthy. In comparison to every other thrower in the NFL Ponder is almost at the bottom or right at the bottom of every stat list there is. In the other two seasons he played he wasn’t much better either.

That means for Cassel: It’s already his to lose. Vikings fans chanted his name in last weeks lost. So they got his back. And players are joining the chorus too.

Longtime Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings, who is now with the Vikings, said to a local newspaper that Cassel is more verbal and more commanding in the huddle then Ponder. He then added unmistakably:

“If anything that’s the difference. That comes with him having much more experience. He’s been in position where he’s had to be a starter for years now. He knows what's going on. He’s commanding. So is Christian. But as far as throwing the ball it is what it is. Matt’s a very smart guy.”

Maybe it’s just the weather or the time difference but it’s not evident why everyone is joining in the Matt Cassel chorus. He is a second string quarterback for a reason.

After having a great season with the New England Patriots after Tom Brady got hurt, Cassel, who never got off the bench in college, signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009. In 2010 he had a Pro Bowl season putting up some good numbers. But it declined steadily from there.

To sum it up: Cassel is one of the reasons the Kansas City Chiefs got the first pick in this year’s draft.

If Cassel, now in his eight year in the league, lives up to his earlier success the Vikings could renew their playoff-hopes. All the pieces are in place. They got the best running back in Adrian Peterson and a ball hawking defense. They just need a better quarterback then Christian Ponder. Is it Matt Cassel? That could be decided in London.

What do you think? Is Matt Cassel the better option? Or should the Vikings rely on Christian Ponder’s game management ability when he is healthy again?

images: © Jeffrey Beall