While Case Keenum helped to bring the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Conference Championship, he may not be the long-term answer at quarterback.
Heading into the 2018 season, the Minnesota Vikings have nothing but question marks at the quarterback position as Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater are unrestricted free-agents following the beat-down at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game.
Interestingly enough, each quarterback represented the Vikings as the primary quarterback for each of the last three seasons.
In 2015, Teddy Bridgewater led Minnesota to an 11-5 record with the chance to write their own destiny in the playoffs had their kicker made what should’ve been an open court lay-up of a field goal from 27 yards out.
2016, after Teddy suffers a catastrophic knee injury, Sam Bradford helps steer the Vikings to a 5-0 start before ultimately collapsing to an 8-8 season. Of course, this was primarily due to having one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL that year.
Then you fast-forward to 2017. Bradford goes down after a marvelous game in Week 1 against New Orleans only for Case Keenum to become the golden-child of Minnesota. And what started out as a question mark of a season became an incredible run as the Vikings finished 13-3 with a chance to play in the Super Bowl on their home field at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Three quarterbacks. Three stories. And yet we’re left wondering whom will be under center come 2018.
Say the Vikings get rejected by both Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins and you’re left with choosing between Keenum, Bradford or Bridgewater.
One thing is for sure. Case Keenum is not the answer.
This does not take away from the incredible job that Keenum has done this past season. He should be commended for it. The reality is that Keenum had a damn near perfect infrastructure surrounding him.
The Perfect Infrastructure
Keenum had the benefit of the sixth ranked pass-protecting offensive line, according to Football Outsiders.
Keenum also had the luxury of having what is arguably the best receiving duo since the vintage Arizona Cardinals days of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs.
There was the coveted Pat Shurmur calling plays as the offensive coordinator, now head coach of the New York Giants.
And how can we not forget having the number one ranked defense on your side (in terms of yards per game allowed, points per game allowed, and third down defense).
Case Keenum himself said in a postgame interview with Deion Sanders, ”It’s like I got handed the keys to a Lamborghini.”
The fact of the matter is, Keenum presents a huge risk of being this year’s Derek Anderson. He’s a guy that popped out of nowhere given the circumstances surrounding him after a five-year sample size as a journeyman.
Can he continue his success of 2017 with a new offensive coordinator now that Pat Shurmur is gone? Can he continue getting away with errant passes being saved by Thielen or Diggs? What if the defense isn’t as dominant next year? Can he make up for that with more productivity?
These are legit questions that must be taken into consideration when evaluating the quarterback position for 2018.
The fact is that given the short sample size of success as a full-time starting quarterback along with questions about the stability of the supporting cast heading into next year, the most that Case Keenum has earned, on the Vikings side, is the right to compete for the starting job for 2018.
In fact, if the choice comes down to the last three quarterbacks of the last three years, the logical choice is Teddy Bridgewater.
Sam Bradford is the better quarterback but his durability cannot be trusted and Keenum has shown that when the Lamborghini needs an emergency start, he’ll likely struggle with connecting the jumper cables.
In the NFC Championship game in Philadelphia, with the Super Bowl and a potential big contract on the line, when the offensive line and defense fell apart, Keenum simply folded.
Check down after check down to Jerick McKinnon in the flat, with no sense of urgency, is what Case resorted to even while down 17, 24 and 31 points respectively.
Don’t believe me? McKinnon tied for the most targets for the Vikings against the Eagles with 12 targets and ultimately led the team in receptions for the game with 11 catches for 86 yards.
And don’t talk to me about how Keenum deserves a pass. The quarterback position is the most important position in sports and often times in the playoffs you may need your quarterback to get you out of a jam once in a while.
Yes, the offensive line fell apart. Yes, the defense looked lost. But the fact is that the pressure that Keenum saw against the Eagles is what Teddy Bridgewater faced on a routine basis.
To reiterate, Keenum had the sixth best pass-protecting offensive line in football. Conversely, Bridgewater had the 27th and 29th ranked pass-protecting offensive line when he last played. The difference is that Bridgewater did enough to make plays and win games and make it to the playoffs with an 11-5 record despite getting knocked upside the head every other play. Keenum on the other hand can’t be immediately trusted if the infrastructure surrounding him is less than stellar.
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Let us also not forget that instead of having Pat Shurmur call plays, Bridgewater had to acquiesce to an out of date offensive scheme called by Norv Turner designed around an aging, one dimensional running back in Adrian Peterson in 2015.
Keenum needs to prove beyond just one season that he is a legit franchise quarterback. Otherwise, signing him to a long-term deal with no questions asked would be irresponsible, eventually re-igniting the hot seat of general manager Rick Spielman.
Teddy has proven that he has the mental fortitude to do what’s necessary to win games despite being surrounded by chaos. Yes, he suffered the potentially career-ending knee injury in 2016, but he has been medically cleared to play since then.
Bridgewater has also never had a decent offensive line or the All-Pro version of Adam Thielen to throw to.
If choosing between Sam, Case, and Teddy, sign me up for a franchise-tag (one year prove it deal) for Bridgewater. Give him the infrastructure that Keenum had the luxury of playing with and there’s a great chance that he’ll thrive.