Take a look at the quarterback careers of Nick Foles of the Eagles and Case Keenum of the Minnesota Vikings in advance of the NFC Championship Game.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum jokingly threw a line out to reporters during his press conference on Wednesday following the team’s improbable last-second victory in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs against the Saints.
"“I know this is what all you guys predicted way back in the day, was a Foles vs Keenum NFC Championship. So good job to all you guys who predicted that” Keenum said via Vikings.com."
And he’s 100% right. No one saw this coming.
After week one there was discussion of Sam Bradford as an MVP candidate following a game where he torched the saints for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns on and a completion percentage of 84%. Up until going down with a season-ending injury Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz was the odds-on favorite in the MVP race throwing for 33 touchdowns and almost 3,300 passing yards. So that begs the question: how did we get here?
Keenum has been a back up for the majority of his career. He’s had a few runs as the starter with the Rams in both St. Louis and LA where he actually managed to outplay both Foles and number one overall pick Jared Goff.
With the Rams, he won some games with an offense that was at the time very anemic other than Todd Gurley’s rookie year. He also showed flashes of potential in Houston, where outside of rookie sensation Deshaun Watson there have been very few quarterbacks who have had any level of success since Matt Schaub departed.
Since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2012 Keenum until he signed with the Vikings Keenum had amassed a total of 24 starts in which he had totaled 5,224 yards, 24 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, and a record of 9 wins and 15 losses as a starter. Numbers indicative of an average at best player.
He was on two offenses that were arguably bottom five in the NFL over his time with them. One has fired the coach who was there with him since in former Rams coach Jeff Fisher. The other has had rumors of that being a very real possibility in Texans head coach Bill O’Brien.
This is all following some of the most prolific production in NCAA history as the starting quarterback for the Houston Cougars where he set records for both touchdowns and passing yardage. Then Bradford went down, and the rest, as they say, is history.
A Career Year for Keenum
Keenum has had the best season of his professional career under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski, passing for career bests in touchdowns (22), yardage (3457), passer rating (98.3), completion percentage (67), touchdown to interception ratio (3.14 to 1), and most importantly wins and losses with an 11-3 record. All while guiding the 10th overall scoring offense into the playoffs.
Keenum entered the league undrafted in 2012 as many scouts believed the undersized 6’1″ Keenum to be a system quarterback too short to succeed as a starter in the NFL. He has developed this season into what appears to be an above average starting quarterback with big balls according to coach Mike Zimmer. Keenum is playing like a gunslinger. Like a guy with nothing to lose and everything to gain and it shows when he puts the ball up for guys like Diggs and Thielen, letting guys make a play, much like he did on the final play of the divisional round.
Foles, on the other hand, has had many more opportunities to start, and even has a Pro Bowl season to his name following a 2013 season where he threw for 2891 yards, 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions while finishing that season with an 8-2 record in 10 starts with the Eagles. Outside of 2013. However, he’s bounced around the league both as a starter in St. Louis (where he was eventually benched in favor of Keenum), then as a backup in Kansas City, and returning as a backup in Philadelphia.
His career stats not including his outstanding 2013 are fairly pedestrian boasting a total of 34 touchdowns, 27 interceptions, and a record of 14-16. Foles entered the league as a third-round pick with the Eagles in 2012. He was the last Philadelphia quarterback drafted by Andy Reid after a very solid college career at Arizona, and, unlike Keenum, the 6’5″ 244 pound Foles checked almost all of the boxes scouts look for in physical attributes for quarterbacks.
Foles is big, he’s strong, and he’s more athletic than some people give him credit for. He even almost played college basketball for Georgetown instead of football according to a 2013 Washington Post article from Dan Steinberg. Foles has the physical ability to be a starter in the NFL.
Both Keenum and Foles have shown, at times, the talent to lead NFL offenses at a high level. Both have had one exceptional season, and outside of that have struggled to find their groove. They are even close friends according to Keenum’s Wednesday presser.
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"“First of all Nick’s a great guy. One of my best friends. A really, really solid guy.”"
They’re close friends. Their careers are closely connected. They have had similar production throughout their careers. But they are very opposite in physical stature, style, and how they entered the league. Now, for the first time, they will face off with one another as starters on opposite teams.
With a chance to go to the biggest game in either man’s career on the line. The biggest difference (other than the uniforms they are wearing) should be this: Foles’ best season of his career came in 2013. Keenum’s is right now. Foles has a slight edge in the numbers overall. But this year it hasn’t even been close.
Keenum has been finding ways to win games, while the Eagles have been trying to find ways to hide Foles behind a solid rushing attack and run-pass option plays. Keen has the momentum, and the edge going into Sunday’s game. Viking’s fans hope he can keep it rolling Sunday.