There aren’t many situations (if any) that you could make an argument currently that former first-round draft pick quarterback Christian Ponder should be a starter. The one spot where the argument is legitimately real, though, is on the San Francisco 49ers. Yes, the 49ers should make the change, and head coach Chip Kelly should choose to name Christian Ponder the team’s starting quarterback after their Week 8 bye.
It’s pretty amazing to think about how far the 49ers have fallen, as Ponder was signed during the preseason basically as an emergency option. They chose to sign a player who hadn’t thrown a regular-season NFL pass since the 2014 season and played in just two games during that year. Throughout his entire career, all of which came with the Minnesota Vikings before 2016, he’s completed 59.8 percent of his passes with 38 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
And, yes, this is the same guy who the 49ers should trust to run their offense.
The reason is simple, and it has completely zero to do with Ponder’s ability. While he did look solid during the preseason, completing 64 percent of his passes for 198 yards, one touchdown, one interception and three rushing scores, it’s more about the combination of Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. After Gabbert had started the first five games of the 2016 season, leading the 49ers to a 1-4 record, Kelly chose to hand the keys to the offense over to Kaepernick, and to say the results haven’t been great would be an understatement.
While Gabbert struggled, completing just 58 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and six interceptions, Kaepernick took the passing woes to a new level. Through two games, he’s completed 46 percent of his passes for 330 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His quarterback rating (66.2) is even worse than Gabbert’s was (69.6).
The only real argument for why either Gabbert or Kaepernick should start at this point is because of their running ability, as both were solid in that capacity. With that said, the preseason proved that Ponder has no issue taking off when needed either. Throughout Ponder’s 38 games with the Vikings, he rushed 126 times for 639 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and scored seven touchdowns as well.
To put it gently, anything Gabbert or Kaepernick bring to the table; Ponder can do as well. So, at 1-6 and with the season all but doomed at this point, why would the 49ers not give the 28-year-old quarterback his chance?
It not only has to do with which quarterback gives the team an opportunity to succeed, but it also has to do with the future. Kaepernick now has the option to opt out of his contract after 2016 if he chooses to, while Gabbert’s deal is up after this year also. This means that even if the 49ers were to draft a quarterback (which they likely will), they’d still need a veteran to have as a backup. If Ponder’s able to prove that he can produce at a relatively high level, then he could wind up being the perfect backup, and wouldn’t cost the team very much to keep in town either.
Overall, it’s pretty much a win-win spot for both the 49ers and Ponder, so don’t be surprised to see the change get made sooner than later.