Why The Vikings Should NOT Start Keenum Going Forward

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

Why Christian Ponder still has a future in the NFL

It hasn’t slipped by me that this is probably going to be a very controversial topic, and probably a lot of opposition to it, but it is in my firm opinion (one I’ve had for years before he was drafted into the NFL) that Christian Ponder has a future in the NFL. At this point, many are probably wondering why I think this way, and I have (Christian) pondered that as well for a while, until I came to a clear resolution recently. I’ll point out some things that most people have forgotten, which will hopefully make people open to thinking about the idea of him competing to start for whoever he might play for this next season, whether it be the Minnesota Vikings, or anybody else.

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First off, remember his promising rookie campaign? He came off the bench in a blowout loss to the Chicago Bears and moved the ball pretty well, and in his first start against the Green Bay Packers at home, he nearly pulled off an upset. He played with an intensity that was missing from their offense (sorry Donovan McNabb) and gave them the spark they needed, while showing why they drafted him high. Yes, there were times when he made bad decisions and bad throws, but overall he had people excited to see what would happen in his sophomore campaign at the pro level.

Before people say he had a boring and almost horrific 2012 season, let’s just look a little more closely at it first. To start off the season, he played pretty well in the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (20-27, 270 yds), and then dazzled in the home upset vs. the San Francisco 49ers. Yes, he sort of fell off into a slump after that, but it wasn’t like he was throwing a bunch of INTs or anything. I’ll even admit, there were some games that were so boring, I found myself yelling at the TV as well. Ponder seemed to struggle on the road the most, especially at the Seahawks (63 yds, INT), Bears (58 QB Rating), and Packers (2 INT in endzone, 41 QB Rating). What goes beyond those stats are the fact that he often couldn’t find wide open receivers, and then if he did, he would be inaccurate and the ball would never get there. Most of these occurrences would happen beyond 20 yards down the field.  When we got to crunch time and had to win out to make the playoffs, Ponder showed development and won us our final four games. He scrambled to get us more first downs and settled his feet in the pocket to make good, solid throws. In the final game at home against the Green Bay Packers, he played his best game as a pro. He threw 3 TD passes and led us down the field on the final drive while being injured to set up the game-winning FG by Blair Walsh. His presence was missed in the playoffs, as the Vikings struggled on offense with Joe Webb and were blown out by none other than the Green Bay Packers. Overall, he had 18 TDs and 12 INTs, and played well at the beginning and the end of the season, and still made people optimistic as to what the future might bring for this young quarterback.

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Forget the fact that he was benched twice during his third season, I still think he played some of his best football this past season. Yeah he struggled early on in the season to get anything going, like the 3 INT game against Detroit to start out the season. When he got his second chance at becoming the starting quarterback again, he showed the upside Vikings fans had been waiting to see. He really played well at Dallas, and he even had two games of over a 100 QB rating, being against the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers. An injury in the following game against the Bears ended his season short, but really played like a franchise quarterback the second half of the season. Yeah his record also wasn’t that great, but with a defense as bad as Minnesota’s last season, Peyton Manning would even have a tough time mustering up a better record.

From this point on, there is little I can say about stats. People can say what they want to say about Christian Ponder, but he has good mobility, can throw on the run, and when given time to throw, he has shown tremendous accuracy, even when throwing deep. Look him up on YouTube and watch the throws he makes. It is in my opinion that the Vikings will keep Ponder to compete for next season with Matt Cassel and a rookie quarterback probably not drafted in the first round. He has all the tools to succeed, it’s just a matter of time before it happens, whether it be in a Vikings uniform or a different one. I’m not saying he’ll make it to Canton one day, but he can play and probably will for a quite a while. Thanks for your time!