It is so obvious who should be the Vikings quarterback for the long haul. So obvious that 48 percent of our readers think Teddy Bridgewater should start but most of the comments we see on social media lean towards Case Keenum.
Nothing could be more clear than whether to start the effective, winning veteran who has been a backup his whole career or the former first-round pick whose devastating knee injury slammed the brakes on his promising career almost two calendar years ago.
In all seriousness, this will be an agonizing decision for the Minnesota coaching staff. The old football proverb says that if you have two quarterbacks then you actually have zero but that does not really hold true for Minnesota. They really do have arguments to start either for the last eight games.
(For now, we will operate under the assumption that Sam Bradford is out for the year. That has not been confirmed but if week five against the Bears is any indication, even if “healed,” so to speak, Bradford’s knee is fragile. The Vikings probably should not count on him being healthy for any extended amount of time.)
Obviously, keep the ball in the hands of the hot guy, the guy who has gotten it done all year. The offense has looked good under Keenum, they are 5-2 in games he has finished and the offensive line has looked really good because of the way he is able to maneuver the pocket. Plus, this is a defensive-minded team so they really just need an efficient quarterback that does not turn the ball over and can move downfield when he has to. That is exactly what Keenum is. So clearly he should be the quarterback for the rest of 2017.
Of course, Keenum’s upside cannot compare to Bridgewater’s. Keenum went undrafted in 2012 while Bridgewater was a first-rounder in 2014. Bridgewater was top-10 in the NFL in completion percentage in 2015, a year, by the way, in which he led a similarly-built Vikings team to a division title and he put a postseason win on the foot of Blair Walsh. Everyone viewed him as the team’s quarterback of the future before his gruesome injury. And considering Keenum has been an emergency starter his entire career, can he really be counted to assume the mantle for a postseason run? There is no discussion, Teddy is the right choice.
These are two arguments that make valid points. With Keenum, fans know what to expect now. But Bridgewater has the upside and, theoretically, the future. So what is the right answer?
For what it is worth, here is how I believe the Vikings will handle it: Bridgewater will be activated this week and serve as Keenum’s backup. As Bridgewater gets more and more up to speed both physically and mentally, Keenum’s leash as the starter will grow shorter, but ultimately he will have a firm hold of the position until he falters. As long as he plays like he has all year, Keenum will be the quarterback.
In my opinion, that is the correct way to handle it. Keenum has six years on his resume of being unspectacular but he has never really been one to implode, with the exception of one four-interception game last year. His interception percentage has been above three just once in his career and his completion percentage has consistently hung around 60. It is that steadiness that has put the Vikings in the position they are now in the NFC playoff picture.
Sure, Teddy was a playoff quarterback in his second season and there were expectations for another jump in development. But his last game snap was 20 months ago and his 2015 play, while encouraging for a second-year quarterback, is virtually interchangeable with Keenum’s statline this year:
- Bridgewater 2015 through 16 games: 88.7 rating, 65.3%, 7.2 YPA, 3.1 TD%, 2.0 int%, 9.0 sack%, 0.5 fumbles/game
- Keenum 2015 through 8 games: 88.8 rating, 63.9%, 6.9 YPA, 3.0 TD%, 1.3 int%, 2.1 sack%, 0 fumbles/game
So basically, they were the same quarterback but Keenum took far fewer sacks and turned the ball over much less often. Which, with a defense as strong as the Vikings have, is the perfect quarterback.
I am going to make a comparison that is not quite apples to apples but is similar to what the Vikings are dealing with: The 2012 49ers.
Alex Smith was having a good season but suffered a concussion. Colin Kaepernick came in and played well, so when Smith was healthy, head coach Jim Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick. Ultimately, behind one of the league’s top defenses and Kaepernick’s big play ability, San Francisco reached the Super Bowl and fell short of a championship by just five yards.
Of course, Kaepernick’s running ability was a big contributor to his success, something Keenum does not possess, at least not at that level. But the point stands that Harbaugh stuck with the hot hand over the starter, relied on that hot hand and his great defense and it paid off.
I am not saying Keenum is the quarterback of the future in Minnesota like the 49ers tried to make Kaepernick. On the contrary, I like Bridgewater as the franchise quarterback. Just not this year. There are too many variables with him coming off a catastrophic injury and the play we have seen out of Bridgewater is no better than 2017 Case Keenum.
So let this year be Keenum’s year. Make a run at a Super Bowl with a steady, turnover-free offense. Restart the Teddy Era in 2018.
Tell us who you think should be the quarterback and why!