Many see parallels between the emergence of Case Keenum in 2017 and the rise of Kurt Warner in 1999. But there’s an important difference between the two players.
When Warner was meandering through football leagues other than the NFL, gaining experience and preparing for what was to come with the Rams, Keenum was playing in the NFL — and not playing nearly as poorly as some believe.
He had 24 NFL regular-season starts before replacing Sam Bradford in September. Keenum finished the 2015 season with the Rams by winning three of four games, and he started the 2016 season (after the move to L.A.) by winning three of four games, even though the Rams didn’t have much of an offensive line or much of a receiving corps.
Before this season, Keenum had five games with a passer rating in excess of 100. (He has added eight of them in 2017.)
Always an afterthought or second fiddle, Keenum never has gotten the keys to the car. Even in Minnesota, there’s a nagging sense that it’s all temporary, that an asterisk appears next to the name on the back of the jersey.
It likely won’t be that way next year. Wherever he ends up, he’ll likely end up the starter, having the chance to build on what he was doing with the Rams and Jeff Fisher, without a No. 1 overall draft pick who is destined to bounce him to the bench, and what Keenum has been doing in Minnesota with the Vikings and Mike Zimmer/Pat Shurmur.
Think about this for a second — Keenum had a 6-2 stretch with the Rams over eight games that spanned the end of the 2015 season, a move to L.A., and the start of the 2016 season. While the Rams were determined to make a move for a young franchise quarterback, maybe they’d be as good if not better right now if they’d shown faith in Keenum, and if they’d given him a chance to grow, develop, win.
A “short” quarterback at six-one (many of us would love to be that short), Keenum has, as one source put it, an innate sense at seeing the field no matter where he is. Keenum also has the mobility to buy time until a receiver pops wide open, and he has a knack for finding the wide-open receiver, wherever he is.
Maybe if Keenum beats sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer Drew Brees, people will start to believe. Maybe not. Maybe people will believe only if he’s hoisting a silver trophy in three weeks and two days.