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How much should Case Keenum’s playoff performance play into Vikings’ 2018 QB decision?

The funny thing about Case Keenum’s story is that the West Coast offense was born out of a top-pick quarterback injury back in the early days of Bill Walsh’s career in Cincinnati.

It’s amazing that two situations in football can be separated by nearly 50 years and still have many of the same threads. Virgil Carter, Walsh’s West Coast quarterback who replaced Greg Cook to lead the Bengals to the 1970 playoffs, would be proud of Pat Shurmur’s offensive design revolving around short passes and yards after catch.

But Carter, a sixth-round pick 1967, didn’t win in the playoffs. He went 7-for-20 in a 17-0 loss to the Baltimore Colts in his only postseason appearance. He was only the Benglas’ starting quarterback for one more year.

The backup-to-starter story has been told a number of times throughout the history of the NFL. In 1988, Vikings backup Wade Wilson stepped into the spotlight with a No. 1 rated defense and led Minnesota to a 11-5 record and a playoff win. He had a 91.5 rating that year, but couldn’t repeat his play in the following seasons.

Alex Smith, who has a 13-win season and three 11-win seasons to his name, struggled for years in San Francisco before breaking through. Players like Jake Delhomme and Rich Gannon were fringe starters who took their teams to Super Bowls and proved to be more than a one-year wonder.

So history would suggest that the Keenum situation could go either way.

Is it fair to ask him to perform when the lights are at their brightest before looking to make him the long-term option at quarterback?

It seems that’s what the Minnesota Vikings might do. Jason La Confora of CBS reported that the Vikings have not had any discussions with Keenum about a contract extension yet.

Judging a player by playoff performance brings about a major concern with sample size. It would be like grading a college quarterback on his Bowl game. Bad luck, bad matchup etc. can make a QB look worse than he is or good luck, good matchup etc. can make a QB look better than reality.

Joe Flacco is a good example of a quarterback who struggled early in his playoff career, then won the Super Bowl later. In Flacco’s first nine postseason games, he tossed four touchdowns and seven interceptions. But in 2012, he had one of the greatest postseason runs of all time, posting a 117.2 rating en route to a ring.

Even if we try to extend Keenum’s sample size back to when he joined the Rams, the Vikings’ QB has pretty inconclusive numbers. Since 2014, he’s won 18 of his 28 games with 35 touchdowns, 19 interceptions and an 89.3 rating. The 28-game sample with some great and some poor situations puts Keenum on the fringe of being a franchise QB. Those numbers closely reflect those of Brian Hoyer and Josh McCown since 2015.

There is evidence to suggest that his play has been greatly impacted by the team’s supporting cast, but that could be said for many QBs. And the Vikings’ supporting cast doesn’t appear to be on the verge of falling apart with Dalvin Cook set to take over the backfield next season and the offensive line set at both tackle positions and center.

Of course, if Keenum wins the Super Bowl, it would be shocking if the Vikings moved on. Anything short of that could make their decision difficult. If they franchise tag him, it’s going to be costly. And it’s likely Teddy Bridgewater – their franchise QB before his 2016 knee injury – will likely walk away in free agency. There would certainly be fear of Keenum struggling in the future and Bridgewater thriving elsewhere.

If the Vikings will also have other – more proven – options. Eli Manning could potentially pull a Brett Favre move or Kirk Cousins could sign as a free agent. It’s possible the Vikings could see all of them as better for 2018 than their current starter even if he performs well in the postseason.

There’s also the possibility that Keenum could follow offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur if he leaves for a head coaching job regardless of playoff outcome.

With all that said, the Vikings should already know whether the want to move forward with Keenum. Success or failure or anything in between in one or two playoff games is not a very good predictive measure.

  • Cman

    I don’t agree with the notion that Keenum will follow Shurmur. Two teams that want to Interview Shurmur are Detroit and Chicago. Do you think if he gets either one of those jobs that they will bench Stafford or Trubisky for Keenum? Highly doubt it.

    • Urmom

      Think Arizona….

      • Cman

        And now the Giants. With Palmer retiring and the Giants possibly moving on from Manning, it’s possible he would follow Shurmur to one of those if he got the job.

    • badzeitgeist

      I know he was a first round pick, but if I have Trubisky and Keenum in my QB room and have to pick one, its pretty easy. Mitchell is holding a clipboard. His decision making right now is nowhere near Keenum’s.

      • Andrew Stead

        The guy who traded two no.1s to pick Trubisky is the same GM who just got extended. If the kid can walk and open a door, he’s the starter in Chicago.

      • Rod Morgan

        thats why you’re a fan and not a GM… is Keenum better today?? yes..who has the upside longterm… most..if not all GM’s in the NFL would take Trubisky vs Keenum.

    • FreedomRider

      Keenum may would follow Shumur if the Vikes dont re-sign him. Keenum likes being a starter but he likes just playing football more and would happily back up another QB if that was his only choice. Keenum is a consummate team player will will do what it takes to try and help a team.

    • gagu

      While Shurmer may want to take Keenum along, I think the main question is whether Keenum would be worth signing in Minnesota if he won’t be playing under Shurmer’s system. Assuming Shurmer leaves, does the team want to restrict their OC hunt to a Shurmer clone to fit Keenum’s strong points? Has Keenum really come into his own on his own, or is he highly dependent on a defined scheme and quality supporting cast? Does the FO have reason to be especially positive or especially negative regarding Teddy’s knee. Does Bradford fit into the equation anywhere? Do the Vikes already have an OC replacement targeted? Point is, there are so many unknown variables, especially for the general public. It’s one of the great stories for the coming months. Smart not to make many assumptions at this point.

  • kutzdogg

    I don’t care what case does in the playoffs. Even a super bowl win won’t chamge my mind on case. He’s had an amazing year by his standards and I don’t see him repeating his career year again. We’ve seen this so many times with a qb having an incredible run and get paid only to regress to the mean. Pay the man but don’t go Flacco on him. He’s not the franchise guy and the Vikings would be foolish to think he can repeat what he’s done this year.

    • Mr Poopsipiddle

      I’m feeling awfully foolish right now.

  • Corn Bread

    There’s just too many options at QB coming next season to commit to any QB on the roster currently. Keenum has been great in certain situations but he has an obvious passing deficiency past 25-30 yards, and outside the numbers (it’s my only real concern going into the playoffs) and we shouldn’t get into a bidding war for him. If Shurmur takes a HC job, we need a more talented QB arm wise. I still believe our QBs next season will be Teddy and Sloter because of salary cap.

    • Cman

      If it’s not Keenum, I can see them going after Cousins because of his size and arm strength, and allowing all 3 to walk and have Sloter as the backup.

      • Corn Bread

        That’s not far fetched. I certainly wouldn’t be against that move.

    • badzeitgeist

      No one will pay Bradford, so I’d be all for paying Case reasonable money, keeping Sam as a backup to help teach Sloter. Otherwise, after seeing how Keenum performed with this line and set of weapons, I’d bet someone like Tyrod Taylor — whose ratings are actually quite good despite the irrational ire of Bills fans — would play lights out here.

      • linus

        Somebody will pay Bradford, asssuming his knee checks out (and if it doesn’t, the Vikings won’t want him either). Not $25M a year, but I wouldn’t be at all shocked if he got a deal like the one the Bears gave Mike Glennon ($15M a year).

        • linus

          And if Shurmur goes to a team that plans on drafting a QB this year (like the Giants), Bradford would be a good fit as a veteran “bridge” QB.

          • Theguds

            Bradford knows he’s better than a bridge QB. He won’t except anything less than an opportunity at being a franchise QB.

            Maybe if he himself thinks his knee won’t hold, then he may take a deal like that.

            My take is he only follows Shurmur, if Shurmur goes to a place like AZ.

          • Gordon Guffey

            How will Shumur look if he brings in Bradford and his knee goes out in week 3 and he misses the rest of the season ~ I know you and I love Bradford and what he could bring to the table ~ But for NFL coach could just want cut it unless they have a Case for a backup ~ Eve then it would seem like he could be a black eye waiting to happen ~ And I hate it has worked out this way ~

    • Theguds

      You want a more talented QB arm-wise? Then you gottem in Sammy B. Strong arm, accurate as hell, and he can read defenses better than any QB on the current roster. Sound the Sammy horn people!!!

      • Corn Bread

        It’s not his arm I’m concerned with, it’s his knee- he’ll have to prove it’s not a chronic issue.

  • Sign Keenum 3y 58m

    Regardless I am happy for Case. He has been a class act all season from Sam’s backup to never getting the official starting nod to leading the crowd for Teddys return and the skol chant with fans at the end of the gb game. Thanks Case

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    • dd

      Keenum is an easy guy to cheer for. I’ve been impressed by him and will continue to root for him to succeed.

  • Drediock

    Ok. Square article there. As in even, and fair.

    Unless he ends up playing. and playing very well int he playoffs,I dont think Teddy is going to get big time money anywhere. While he’s shown a ton of potential its still unproven. Including his leg. I just dont see any teams that are going to be willing to pay more then higher end backup pay for an unproven Teddy.
    Thats why I think proved he plays well in the playoffs the Vikes franchise Keenum and sign Teddy themselves to that high end backup money. They should have the money for it as they only really need to draft and look for for depth next year as such wont need to sign any big name players outside of their own.
    Eli would be a bad choice. He’s int he twilight of his career and to be frank. doesn’t elevate those around him and make things happen himself but rather the other way around. (we regularly B slap him) and arent we tired of other teams old retreads already?. Cousins might work. But he doesnt seem to fit Zimmers “team” scheme

    • Andrew Stead

      I disagree with including Flacco–he threw what should have been a pick against Denver, but atrocious safety play let the Ravens squeak it out. Flacco was amazingly hot the next 3 games and has been wildly overpaid ever since.

      There just aren’t enough good QBs. I think Teddy gets at least Glennon money, but even if he gets less than that on a 1 year “prove it” deal, that would only make sense for him to take on a team where he’s the starter. It’s nearly impossible to see more than 1 of these 3 QBs back next year.

      • Gordon Guffey

        I just cant see them giving Teddy Glennon money unless it is back loaded with incentives if he makes it through the year while also being able to win the starting job from someone very Case like ~
        This is JMHO and I could always be wrong ~

        • gagu

          Yes, Teddy can’t get a ton of guaranteed money. Rolling the dice. Manning was horrible this year. He looked very gun shy in the pocket. I wouldn’t bet on him getting heart back with a move to a competitive team. He has taken a ton of hits over the years. I agree with Andrew on Flacco. That train has left the station. I’ve also soured on Cousins. All these guys are over-paid in relation to their individual abilities to direct a talented supporting cast. I hope we can keep one of the three that we already have on a somewhat reasonable contract. If we can afford to keep our D and O-line together and playing at the same level, a stud QB isn’t essential at this time. I’d rather have them focus on finding a quality developmental QB in the draft. Salary cap issues get dicey with successful clubs. I’d retain a guy like Rhodes over spending big to bring in a guy like Cousins.

    • Theguds

      Teddy has shown he has potential to be a good back-up thus far, and that’s about it.

  • linus

    What this postseason will do is demonstrate whether the Vikings are good enough to win a Super Bowl without elite (e.g., top ten-ish) QB play. If they are, then they can spend what’s necessary to keep their core of stars together (especially on defense), while signing somebody like Keenum for (say) $18M a year. If they aren’t, they’ll have to let some of their core players go and try to find a QB who is worth $25M/year (or more).

    • Theguds

      I disagree a little bit linus. I think you need that elite QB regardless if you want continuity as it pertains to going deep into the playoffs year after year.

      • linus

        Best hope not, ‘cuz the Vikings don’t have one, and I know I just offended a lot of Keenum supporters, but he’s not elite. Good, but not elite.

        • Theguds

          If Bradford’s knee is good, he can absolutely be elite.

          • Gordon Guffey

            While I would love the thought of Bradford being able to stay healthy I dont believe it possible ~ He is hands down the best QB on the roster ~

          • Theguds

            I need to you to believe GG… Belieeeve..

        • Gordon Guffey

          I dont believe there is a elite QB on the roster outside of Bradford ~ However I believe Case is the best left due to health ~ They need someone just like Case if they plan to keep Teddy because know one including the Vikings know how long or well that knee will hold up ~ It was a much worse than the two ACL injures Bradford had just base off what I have read ~ No way they can take a chance on Teddy only to have his knee go out in week 7 ~ It might not happen ~ But it might ~

          Your thoughts on who the Vikings should go with linus ~ ???? Anyone good coming out in this years draft that might be there when the Vikings draft in rounds 1 or maybe trading up in the second that just needs to sit for a copse of years and hope Teddy’s knees hold up ~ ????

    • Gordon Guffey

      They need to look at the draft if they can’t resign Case or dont trust Teddy’s knee and I for one dont believe they do ~ But thats JMHO and means nothing ~ Bradford is gone unless he knows no one will sign him to the kind of money he is use to getting and I dont believe anyone outside of maybe the Browns ~ And no FA wants to play for the Browns where he will get killed ~ I dont believe the Vikings will be in the hunt for Bradford no matter what unless they can resign him and Case or Teddy ~

      I’m not up to date on who is coming out this year or if their is someone with talented that might fall to the Vikings that just need to set for a couple of years but has the talent to play in the NFL ~ I would love to know what they think of the Sloter kid ~ They are paying him 3rd round money so maybe they believe if they can let him set for another couple of years he might make a great starter ~ I’m just guessing here so I’m not saying anything I would be willing to put money on ~ LOL I just wondering out loud ~

      • gagu

        We all can’t do much more than just think out loud at this point, Gordon. Ande I like your thinking. I’m pretty conservative in general on franchise building in sports. Foremost, we need to make sure the cash is around to retain our key defensive players. We also need to ensure that our O-kine never again falters. I think this team will be in the Super Bowl and make a strong showing regardless of winning or losing. And they are most likely going to do it with Keenum. There is no reason IMO that they can’t do the same next season. I love the overall strength and depth of this roster, My hope is that the FO is concentrating on finding and developing a talented future starting QB. Maybe Sloter ends up earning a place in the Vikings Ring of Honor.

        • Gordon Guffey

          I totally agree about the OL gagu ~ They needs to keep adding talent through the draft so they can replace older talent much cheaper than in FA without skipping a beat ~ Berger said at the start of training camp this would be his last year ~ I wonder if thats still on or if the 13~3 season might get him back for one more year ~ ???

  • Gordon Guffey

    Coller you silly little man ~ You just cant help yourself ~ LOL

    • Wilbur One

      The way I read it, even if Case plays great throughout the post season, Coller still won’t support him. I couldn’t help but wonder how old Mathew was before he finally agreed that Santa Claus wasn’t real. (Maybe he’s still holding on to that one). He does seem to hold on to his narratives long after they’ve been discredited.

  • Larry Smith

    Way too early to throw the towel in for Case Keenum, lets see how he doses in the playoffs. Remember he still holds most yards passing (career) for the NCAA. Plus I like the way he reminds me of Fran Tarkenton.

    • Wilbur One

      Not making commitments to Case seems to be a successful strategy, so why change anything til after the season?

  • cka2nd

    You forget that Wilson took over from Tommy Kramer in 1987, starting seven out of the 12 non-scab games in that strike-shortened season, and then led the Vikings to two glorious road game wins in the playoffs. Kramer couldn’t finish a single game that he started that year, including the playoff game against the Saints, I believe because of the damage his throwing shoulder had taken over the years.

  • Topgunn

    This is going to be a very hard decision, no matter what it is. Sam has the best arm talent of them all. Not even close. But can his knees hold up? Case is a great game manager who may or may not be able to repeat this career year for him. Despite the fact that everyone LOVES Teddy, I just can’t see him in the mix. Too many question marks with him. Let someone else throw a pile of $$$ at him. Cousins intrigues me. But I’m not sure if he’s “elite” enough. With the talent on the Vikings “D” and the talent at WR with Thielen and Diggs, throw in Dalvin Cook coming back, who WOULDN’T want to be the Vikings QB next year and beyond.

    • Theguds

      If Bradford says his knee feels great and all the medical experts say his knee looks good then I think you have to roll dice with SB. His MRI showed that he has no structural damage…so there you have it.

      You’re right on Case. Can he continue this run year in year out? It’s tough for anyone especially as defenses get to know you better.

  • O-Whizz

    If your going to spend you days on all things Vikings I suggest delving into their history and watching some film from the 60’s and 70’s. They had an offensive coordinator named Jerry Burns and a running back named Chuck Foreman who by ’75 were setting passing and touchdown records for the running back position. The later super bowl success of Walsh led the media to coin the phrase west coast offense. To be fair in the early 70’s I’m not saying the Vikings were the only team with a ball control passing game. I remember Terry Metcalf giving the Vikings all kinds of trouble out of the backfield. He set a record of most yards from scrimmage one year in his short career (he weighed 185 lbs). His coach was Don Coryell who is known for the Air Coryell downfield passing offense yet Metcalf was catching 50 passes a year out of the backfield. Wait how does that work? I guess you could say in any era an offensive coordinator will have a good year if he can play to his personnel, be innovative and try to stay one step ahead of the competition.

    • Jake Johnson

      I was thinking the same thing when I read the intro to this article. The author seems to think that by throwing out a 1970 date with Bill Walsh’s name attached, this will put to rest the debate over the real pioneer of the west coast offense.

      No thanks on Manning OR Cousins, I’ll pass. And the more likely scenario has Bradford following Shurmur if he leaves for a head coaching job.

  • O-Whizz

    Bradford is never going to be mobile. I like a mobile qb. Think of what we fear from qb’s; mobility. A Rod outside the pocket, Russel Wilson, Cam Newton on a 60 yard run. I wouldn’t count on him plus he’s never won. I was a big backer of his till I saw the Chicago game. I would wait till after the season and evaluate the qb position along with all the others.

  • O-Whizz

    The thing with quarterbacks is their performance has much to do with the team around them. Pressure Brady and watch him suffer. Carr looked great last year but the team goes down a notch and so does he. Dak P how’s he looked this year. A QB under pressure is a bad QB

    • Theguds

      I agree. But people like to use that fact to diminish the good play by QBs. Their responsibilities are much greater than the other players on the team.

  • Werdup

    WTF was that part about Eli Manning? Why would the Vikings want a qb who’s currently worse than all 3 of their in house options and to top that, he’s way older and will probably regress a lot soon.

  • Andre Esters

    As unfortunate as it was to have Sammy Sleeves start off strong then quickly fade into the injury abyss, the eye-brow raising questions at QB were expected. Would Minnesota trade? Do they bring in Kaepernick? How healthy is Teddy? Who’s the future? Will Bradford ever return? …the rampant speculation was a bit nauseating…

    The flurry of questions were fair game though, Minnesota needed clarity at the QB position. That is until Keenum surprisingly produced consistent above-average play for a backup. All the wild conjectures transformed into a slightly different yet equally annoying monster… expectation for the eventual brick wall. With the playoffs officially locked in and a much needed and well deserved week off with home field advantage to relax on, the silly QB questions have returned…

    Figuring out what to do with Keenum, Bradford, Teddy, even Sloter is an absolute non-factor right now. A complete distraction from the ultimate goal at hand. Super Bowl. Contracts, roster moves, free agency, coaches, let that stuff rightfully wait until the (hopefully not too soon) offseason.





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