The list of starting quarterbacks for every NFL team with at least eight wins so far this season:
Yes, Case Keenum.
The lineup invokes memories of the old Sesame Street tune, “One Of These Things (Is Not Like The Other).”
Brady, Roethlisberger and Brees will someday receive induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Wentz will join them if his young career continues to skyrocket. Keenum? He’ll have to buy a ticket for admission.
But don’t make the mistake of getting too caught up in the past or future. Keenum is the right quarterback for the Vikings right now.
And if Minnesota (9-2) continues playing like it did in Thursday’s 30-23 win at Detroit, Keenum could very well become the most improbable signal-caller to win a Super Bowl since Kurt Warner with the 1999 St. Louis Rams.
Keenum and Warner come from similar backgrounds. Both were undrafted. Both faced the indignity of being cut. Both needed an injury to the starting QB for a chance to play.
Warner took full advantage of his opportunity with the Rams. Keenum is doing the same in Minnesota.
In and out of the lineup earlier this season as Sam Bradford battled a knee injury suffered in the opener, Keenum took the reins full time in Week 6. Outside expectations were low. After all, Keenum had posted a 9-15 record the previous four seasons with the Texans and Rams. He was signed to a one-year, $2 million contract last March as an insurance policy the Vikings hoped wouldn’t need to get cashed.
The best-case scenario initially was for the 29-year-old Keenum to fill the “game-manager” role until either Bradford or 2015 starter Teddy Bridgewater (knee) could return.
That placeholder status is gone.
MORE: Vikings-Lions box score
The best part about Keenum’s performance in last month’s victories over Green Bay and Baltimore was that he did nothing to lose the game by committing only one turnover and not getting sacked.
For the past four games, Keenum has made splash plays to win them all while still avoiding costly mistakes.
Keenum’s comfort running the offense installed by coordinator Pat Shurmur — who should draw strong consideration for NFL Assistant Coach of the Year — was evident from the onset against Detroit. Keenum passed or ran to convert three third-down conversions and capped the 14-play, 80-yard opening drive with a 1-yard TD toss to tight end Kyle Rudolph. That gave Keenum six touchdown passes in his last nine quarters compared to the same total in his first six Vikings starts combined.
After the Lions fumbled on their second play, Keenum quickly had the Vikings lighting up the scoreboard again with a 9-yard touchdown jaunt on a zone-read keeper. A 22-yard touchdown pass to Rudolph just before halftime extended Minnesota’s lead to 20-3. It also marked Keenum’s third game in 2017 with at least three TDs either running or passing, matching the combined total posted during his first five NFL seasons.
The Vikings needed every point from that cushion in the second half as Detroit (6-5) cut Minnesota’s lead to four early in the fourth quarter. Keenum squashed Detroit’s hopes down the stretch with two key completions to Stefon Diggs that set up Kai Forbath’s 36-yard field goal. Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes then intercepted Matt Stafford on Detroit’s subsequent possession and the Vikings ran out the clock.
Led by Adam Thielen, who Thursday became Minnesota’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2009, and Diggs as well as a solid offensive line, Keenum has benefited from having a better supporting cast than he did with the Texans or Rams. Along with his personal improvement in 2017, Keenum also has exhibited mental toughness by not being affected by all the noise surrounding Bridgewater’s return to the sideline three games ago as his backup.
“It’s incredible right now,” Keenum said in his postgame interview on Fox. “I love my team.
“It’s great to be a Viking. We’re going to keep this going.”
Keenum knows that no matter how well he performs, Bridgewater’s shadow will be there. With all three of Minnesota’s aforementioned quarterbacks set to become unrestricted free agents, speculation will continue about how the Vikings plan to address the position heading into the 2018 offseason. Plus, it’s unknown how long coach Mike Zimmer would be willing to stick with Keenum if the Vikings experience a rough patch offensively.
But with the NFC North now almost locked up and a first-round playoff bye in sight, a scenario in which Zimmer reinstates Bridgewater will never come into play as long as Keenum keeps giving Minnesota the same luxury that New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New Orleans enjoy: confidence in who is taking the snaps at the game’s most important position.
Alex Marvez can be heard from 6-7 a.m. and 10 a.m. to noon ET Friday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.