Christian Ponder has played in 27 NFL games in his two years in the league, and in that time he has given fans mixed emotions about whether or not he will be the long term answer for the team as their gunner at QB that we haven’t seen since the Daunte Culpepper years. (Some of you may disagree with that and say that we’ve been waiting even longer, but in all fairness, Culpepper was good at what he did before he injured his knee).
Ponder didn’t come into the league guns blazing, lighting up scoreboards and closing in on records in his first two years in the league, and he has had his share of poor games. But he has also had a number of good games, including the last 4 in the 2012 regular season when the only proven receiver he had was 2nd-year TE Kyle Rudolph.
The downfall for Ponder is that after his 2-years in the league, he has convinced many fans that he simply does not have the passing ability to lead an NFL team, but those fans may be surprised at how he compares to other QBs in the NFL after their first 27-games under center. The list below shows every starting or projected starter (Sanchez may not be around much longer) who has been in the league at least as long as Ponder, and their stats after their first 27 NFL games, (Locker and Gabbert aren’t at 27 yet, but got included anyways). Note that for a lot of these players, they didn’t hit 27 games in their first two years. Those that didn’t have numbers in parenthases next to their name indicating the (year-game) that they crossed the 27 mark.
While Ponder only ranks 17th out of the 24 current players who made the cut, this doesn’t necessarily put him in a bad position. Vick, Brees, Eli and Payton are all beneath that, and all have had some pretty good careers, including 4-Super Bowl victories among them.
The guys at the top of the list are in mixed company. Romo, the best of the group, has a sultry 1-4 playoff record. Rivers and Cutler haven’t performed any better. Romo, Rogers, Brady and Rivers all took significantly longer to get to game 27, probably giving them a better shot at learning more and performing better when their chances came around. And there’s guys up there (Sanchez, Palmer, Cutler) who didn’t pan out for their first team and/or are about to start looking for a 2nd or even 3rd team to get it right.
And where do the current “Elite” QBs rank? Well, let’s say there’s 6 “Elite” QBs in the league, and give those spots to Roethlisberger, Rogers, Brady, Brees, Eli and Peyton. I’m sticking with this group because they’ve been good for a while now, consistently make the playoffs, are still a serious contendor to make the playoffs, and have each been a major reason for at least one Super Bowl victory. They stand at spots 2, 3, 5, 20, 21 and 22. That’s a pretty big difference between the top-3 and bottom-3, but it would be hard to argue that either group is better than the other.
Of these six players, Ponder probably compares best to Eli, who only has 2-Super Bowl rings to his credit.
So what does that all say for Ponder? Well, while he’s no guarantee to be elite, and not even a guarnteed franchise QB, he is doing just as good as should be expected for a QB with 27-games under his belt, and he still has the potential turn into something great if we give him time.