Aside from all the normal reasons to want to do well, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder will be trying to prove Greg Jennings right and Percy Harvin wrong in 2013.
One of the many reasons for Harvin's perpetual unhappiness in Minnesota was a lack of faith in Ponder, who has been inconsistent at best since the Vikings selected him 12th overall in the 2011 draft. Meanwhile, one of the reasons Jennings cited for his happiness in signing with Minnesota is the promise he sees in the young, athletic Ponder.
Of course, money tends to make a man's mood, so let's look at the bottom line first.
The Vikings were reluctant to rework Harvin's rookie deal and probably would have forced the disgruntled, injury prone star to play for $2.7 million this year. Knowing Harvin would have held out and caused them even more headaches, the Vikings granted Harvin's trade request, shipping him to Seattle for first- and seventh-round picks this year and a third-round pick next year. The Seahawks then gave Harvin 67 million reasons -- 25 million guaranteed -- to turn his frown upside down.
Meanwhile, before free agency even began, Jennings said quarterback would be a key factor in his decision. It sounded good since this was a guy who has only played with two future Hall of Famers in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
But rather than take less money to return to Green Bay, Jennings took the Vikings' five-year, $47.5 million deal. He gets $18 million guaranteed, which is pretty good considering he turns 30 in September and has missed 11 games the past two seasons because of knee and core muscle injuries.
During his introductory press conference in Seattle, Harvin made his feelings about Ponder quite clear without ever mentioning him by name. Praising former teammate Favre and making a point to say that Seattle's Russell Wilson was the kind of quarterback he's always hoped to play with was enough.
Ponder wasn't happy about the snub, but didn't return any fire. He simply said it didn't matter what Harvin said considering he's no longer on the team.
Four days later, Ponder received a vote of confidence from Jennings. Jennings said he studied a lot of film of Vikings games, admitting that he was focused in on Ponder the whole time.
"I had to watch Christian," Jennings said. "I had to see what I was getting myself into."
"He's a very athletic quarterback with a big upside," Jennings said. "How much better he gets depends on him. You could see on film he didn't have a lot of options to throw to. But I didn't achieve the success I've had alone. I got help from Bret (Favre) and Aaron (Rodgers) ... We're all here to help each other."
Jennings also talked about how the Vikings won their last four regular season games, including a season-ending win over the visiting Packers. That win clinched a playoff spot and prevented the Packers from having a first-round bye. Ponder threw three touchdowns, no interceptions and posted a 120.2 passer rating while complementing running back Adrian Peterson's 199-yard rushing effort.
"Adrian can't do it all by himself," Jennings said. "I hope I can help take some of the pressure off him and the offense. It was time for a change, but I wanted to go to a team where the window was opening up, not closing. The Vikings kind of snuck up on people last year -- they snuck up even on the Packers -- with 10 wins. Hopefully, next season we can get 11, 12, 13 wins."