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In Praise of Case Keenum

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Minnesota Vikings v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After the Vikings victory over the Redskins yesterday, a day that saw Teddy Bridgewater return to the active roster, the headlines of the game were mostly about the play of Case Keenum. Lots of praise from national media outlets. Here are some quotes.

Case Keenum has earned the Vikings’ starting job. Teddy Bridgewater‘s return is a great story, but Keenum is playing better football right now than Bridgewater has ever played. As long as Keenum is playing like this, the Vikings shouldn’t bench him. It’s incredible that Keenum was a free agent this offseason and the best offer he got was a one-year, $2 million deal to be the Vikings’ backup. How much do you think the Bears wish they had paid a couple million for Keenum instead of giving a three-year, $45 million deal to Mike Glennon? - Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk

Where would the Minnesota Vikings be without Case Keenum? And how much longer can they afford to go without extending his contract.

Lest one wonder, there is no quarterback controversy here, especially not after Keenum's magnum opus in Washington on Sunday, and there will likely not be one. It would take a prolonged slump of some magnitude – or any injury, of course – for Mike Zimmer to even consider a QB change now, given Bridgewater's long hiatus and the way this offense is expanding even after the loss of running back Dalvin Cook for the season. - Jason La Canfora, cbssports.com

Case Keenum, with the hot breath of franchise favorite Teddy Bridgewater on the back of his neck, threw for four touchdowns for the first time in his life. Who’d have figured, in a game at a playoff contender, that Keenum would lead the Vikings to 35 points in the first 35 minutes? ...Now Mike Zimmer has to carefully manage the return to play of Bridgewater, who is one of the biggest local heroes in recent Minnesota sports history. That’s going to be tricky, because you don’t know, whether a rusty quarterback will be better than an average one playing hot...

Keenum was not just a facilitator Sunday—not just a quarterback along for the ride with an excellent one-two receiver punch in Stefon Diggs and emerging star Adam Thielen. Keenum lasered a 51-yard throw down the right sideline for Diggs, a perfectly placed deep ball. He showed excellent touch on a lofted pop throw to Thielen down the left sideline. Under pressure and about to get creamed by Washington rushers Will Compton and Terrell McClain, Keenum fired a perfect pass up the left seam to Thielen. And later Keenum rolled out and waited, waited, waited for Thielen to get free in the end zone and threw a perfect strike, with Josh Norman draped on Thielen, for a touchdown. - Peter King, SI / MMQB

What if Case Keenum is the best quarterback on Minnesota's roster? The third-string quarterback from the perfect 53-man roster threw two ugly second-half interceptions to help make the Vikings' 38-30 win over Washington look like more of a contest, but he also went 21-of-27 for 304 yards and four touchdowns on his other pass attempts. His big plays were inch-perfect throws 40 yards downfield to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Keenum picked on Josh Norman, the highest-paid cornerback in the league.

Keenum is 14th in passer rating, but Total QBR pegs him as the third-best quarterback in football on a rate basis, behind just Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott while ranking just ahead of Carson Wentz and Tom Brady. I wouldn't use that as evidence that Keenum is actually better than the two favorites in the MVP race, but it is evidence of how Keenum's skill set is underappreciated by traditional metrics. - Bill Barnwell, ESPN.com

SO WHAT SHOULD THE VIKINGS DO WITH KEENUM?

Keenum is having the best year of his career, just like another ex-Rams QB did last year for the Vikings. That interesting fact, along with the sudden emergence of Rams QB Jared Goff this year, leads to some speculation on whether or how badly Jeff Fisher mis-managed/coached his offense and QBs while head coach of the Rams, and whether these QBs are better than their numbers with the Rams under Fisher suggest.

In any case, Jason La Canfora in his article suggests offering Keenum a similar contract to what the Jets did with Josh McCown - $6 million/year plus several million in incentives based on playing time. That sounds like a reasonable way to extend Keenum, if he’d accept it.

But in terms of this season, clearly it makes sense to continue with Keenum as the starter unless/until his performance really drops off considerably. As a practical matter, that means at least the next two games against the Rams at home, and the Lions with a short week. Keenum would have to play pretty bad in those two games to start Bridgewater at Atlanta, not knowing how rusty he is, or how well he trusts playing in a real hard-hitting, playoff-type game on his rebuilt knee.

But at some point in December, if Bridgewater doesn’t start because Keenum is playing well- or at least well enough- Zimmer and the Vikings should say Keenum is our guy this season, even while trying to give Bridgewater some reps late in games if the score allows.

BRIDGEWATER STILL COULD BE QBOTF

Just as Bradford and Keenum have thrived in Pat Shurmur’s system, Bridgewater could too. The Vikings have a better offensive line now, and better receivers than when Bridgewater last played, so all these factors could help Bridgewater improve upon his 2015 stats, which have been easily eclipsed by both Bradford and Keenum, last year and this year.

But the keys to the offense should not be handed to Bridgewater blindly, or without competition. Bradford looks increasingly unlikely as competition next year, so there is a growing priority to get Keenum extended. Getting the numbers to work won’t be easy, but having a viable competition to Bridgewater makes sense for the Vikings, and can only help make them a better team. It would be great to keep both Bridgewater and Keenum, essentially splitting a $20 million starting QB salary, with Sloter developing as a third-string backup. In time either Keenum or Bridgewater would emerge as the long-term starter, and the other could be traded for decent compensation, leaving a more developed Sloter as the number two.

Poll

Should Case Keenum be re-signed as a potential QBOTF alternative to Teddy Bridgewater?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Yes - he should be part of the Vikings plans going forward
    (1535 votes)
  • 23%
    No - Teddy Bridgewater is the QBOTF for the Vikings
    (480 votes)
2015 votes total Vote Now