Allow me to preface my statement by saying this: I like Case Keenum. I’ve been a fan of his since he was slinging touchdowns left and right at the University of Houston. He came from an era in which quarterbacks like Colt Brennan, Graham Harrell, Dan LeFevour, and Kellen Moore were putting up, as the phrase goes, “video game” type of stats on a regular basis. All of them are among the all-time leaders in career touchdowns in college football history, but Keenum is still the NCAA all-time leader for most career touchdowns, passing yards, and completions.
As he transitioned into the NFL, he surpassed the long odds and achieved some success despite going undrafted and now playing for his 3rd NFL team. He stepped in for a Houston Texans team that was near the end of the Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub era and provided a spark for a team that was once thought of being a good quarterback away from becoming a championship contending team – including throwing for 3 TDs in the first half of a game vs. the Colts and finishing with 350 passing yards.
However, the Texans didn’t view him as their future signal-caller (since his record as a starter was 0-8) and long story short, let him walk to the St. Louis Rams (while swapping him back and forth for a season). In limited action after replacing an underperforming Nick Foles, he finished his first season with the Rams totaling 4 TDs and 1 INT, but the only thing most people remember about this season in regards to Keenum is the concussion he sustained during a game at the Ravens and was questionably allowed to stay in the game (fumbling the game away shortly thereafter). After a rough start to the following season with 9 TDs and 11 INTs (the first as the L.A. Rams), he was benched for rookie QB Jared Goff, who was the first overall pick of the previous NFL Draft.
Since he became expendable to the Rams, he left Los Angeles and decided to compete with Taylor Heinicke for the backup job in Minnesota behind starter Sam Bradford. After playing spectacularly in the preseason and winning the backup job until Teddy Bridgewater’s return (more on that later), he was forced to step into action week 2 with Bradford experiencing knee pain and soreness. For the most part, he has played better than most have expected. As of right now, he has 5 TDs and 1 INT while leading the Vikings to a 3-2 record if you count the game he played at the Chicago Bears.
Having said that, I’m not ready to jump on the Keenum bandwagon that most in the sports media world seem to be doing. Most point out how the team is rallying behind him right now and that his mobility helps out the Vikings’ offense in a way that Bradford obviously cannot do. It isn’t that their viewpoint is wrong, because it is true to an extent, but please do not fall for what the situation appears to be.
When looking at the teams he has played against, only two of them have a competent defense (Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions) and did not perform well in either game – both of the Vikings’ losses. In those losses, the Vikings have averaged 8 points-per-game. If you take a look at his skill-set, he is essentially a rich man’s version of what the Vikings were hoping to get when they drafted Christian Ponder with the 12th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. I like to call Keenum the definition of an NFL QB “tweener.” By that, I mean that he is a great, quality backup QB for an NFL team, but is not the type of guy a team would like to start over a long stretch of games. The media keeps making a big deal about his lack of turnovers, but they must not be watching all of the games since he has gone multiple games, including the most recent game vs. the Green Bay Packers, having thrown numerous dropped interceptions. This is where the lack of tough competition comes into play. He also couldn’t make a play almost the entire 2nd half at home against the Lions when the team needed a play – especially in the 4th quarter.
Think about it: Keenum is the 3rd best QB on the Vikings’ roster. Obviously Sam Bradford’s injury is worse than the Vikings have been leading the public to believe. I’m not accusing anyone of lying or not doing their job, but the reality is that Bradford might not be back this season. Conversely, Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings’ 1st round pick from 2014, is finally practicing for the first time since August 2016. As a close friend and fellow Vikings’ fan recently told me, the best plan of action for the Vikings (if Bradford cannot return from injury) is having Bridgewater continue to get first team reps in practice and be inactive this upcoming weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, then serving as the #2 QB the following game against the Cleveland Browns (since both teams are not exactly the toughest opponents on our schedule), and finally having him take over the starting job after the bye week at the Washington Redskins.
Things could obviously go much different as it usually does in the NFL on a week-to-week basis. The best thing that could happen for the Vikings is having Sam Bradford fully recovered from his injury since he is the most talented passer of the three (although Bridgewater has the most potential), but it should be interesting to see how it all unfolds. If the Vikings do decide to stick with Keenum for the remainder of the season as the starter, no amount of mobility (which has also been talked about and praised way too much) or team spirit will turn him into a savior and, ultimately, save him from facing the tougher teams remaining on our schedule, such as the Lions, Atlanta Falcons, and Carolina Panthers. Like I said at the beginning, I like Keenum’s ability, so I hope that he continues to find success and does whatever is necessary for the Vikings to continue to win games. I’m just not sure that continuing to start him will be the solution.