McNabb’s benching means that a quarterback drama now exists for each of the teams involved in the late-July deal that sent him from Washington to the Twin Cities. While Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan chooses this week between McNabb’s successor, Rex Grossman, and backup John Beck, Frazier is moving to his franchise’s quarterback of the future, the 12th overall selection in April’s NFL draft out of Florida State, instead of giving McNabb another chance to right the Vikings.
“I made the comment a few weeks ago, I thought the change was coming unless Donovan changed what he was doing,” former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, now an analyst for the league-owned NFL Network, said Tuesday before the news of Frazier’s decision. “He hasn’t, and it is.”
An NFL source confirmed several reports Tuesday, the first by the NFL Network, that the Vikings had decided to start Ponder.
The Eagles reached five NFC title games in McNabb’s 11 seasons in Philadelphia, but traded him to the Redskins, an NFC East rival, before last season. The Redskins benched McNabb in favor of Grossman with three games remaining. Now McNabb, who turns 35 in November, faces an uncertain future as an NFL starter.
“What we saw in Philadelphia was a very unique athlete,” Theismann said. “But he has always had times when he struggled with his accuracy. The thing that distinguished Donovan was his ability to extend plays, and he had a great presence as a leader with that Philadelphia club. He conducted himself in the classiest possible manner with all that came his way, and he continues to do that. But that’s Donovan the man. What we’re talking about now is Donovan the quarterback.”
McNabb is the NFL’s 19th-rated passer, which puts him 13 spots ahead of Grossman. He has thrown only two interceptions this season, seven fewer than Grossman, and he has completed 60.3 percent of his passes, to Grossman’s 55.8 percent. But while Grossman helped the Redskins to some early-season wins, little has gone right for the Vikings.
They squandered leads of 17-7, 17-0 and 20-0 in three of their defeats. That wasn’t the problem Sunday night in Chicago, where the Bears grabbed the early lead and never looked back in a 39-10 rout. Ponder completed 9 of 17 passes for 99 yards in relief of McNabb, who connected on 19 of 24 throws for 177 yards.
“There really wasn’t anything that you could point to and say that’s something we can build on,” Frazier said at a news conference Monday. “It was just a tough night all the way around.”