Friday, October 21, 2011

Pondering a Legend?

The date was September 17, 1961.  An upstart franchise called the Minnesota Vikings led by a rookie QB surprised everyone and knocked off one of the NFL's elite teams, the Chicago Bears.  Fast forward 50 years and the same Minnesota Vikings, their season already lost at 1-5, turn to a rookie QB to make his first start against the undefeated, defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.  Two days away from the official start of the Christian Ponder era, can these present day Vikings take a lesson from the band of cast offs and rookies that pulled that monumental upset in the Purple's inaugural game?

That day Fran Tarkenton, taken in the 3rd round from the University of Georgia, replaced starter George Shaw and proceeded to throw for 270 YDS, 4 TDs and no interceptions against the famed Monsters of the Midway.  Bears coach and NFL Hall of Famer George Halas called it the greatest debut by a rookie QB he had ever seen.  And while this opening day win was followed by seven losses it marked the beginning of a brilliant career for Tarkenton that ended with every major NFL passing record and an induction in the Hall of Fame.

In the midst of season marred with offensive ineptitude, stadium debates and threats of Los Angeles, the Minnesota Viking faithful place their hope in a rookie from Florida State whose drafting with the 12th overall pick just 6 months prior was greeted with boos and head scratching in NFL Draft parties across the Land of 10,000 lakes.  The perfect world scenario of easing into the role of starting QB has instead turned into a baptism by fire against the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews.  And while Viking fans will on the outside be hoping that Ponder doesn't implode in front of a national audience and add insult to what already feels like a long season, inside we'll be hoping and watching for subtle signs of Sir Francis and his brilliance those 50 years ago.

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