Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced Wednesday that he is sticking with quarterback Case Keenum as his starter for Sunday’s game against the Rams. While some of us (hand raised) mistook Zimmer’s hesitation Monday in naming a starter as a sign he was turning to Teddy Bridgewater against the Rams, this was the logical decision all along.
Keenum is outplaying his past production by a significant margin this season and deserves a chance to see if he can keep building on this five-game winning streak.
Keenum’s play — as well as the length and significance of Bridgewater’s more than 14 months away — makes this a much harder and different decision than the one Zimmer made before the Bears game earlier this year, when he went back to Sam Bradford after Keenum went 1-2 as a starter while Bradford tried to heal his knee. Bradford was awful and re-injured himself against the Bears. Keenum rescued a shaky 2-2 team that is now 7-2.
So this time around in making a decision, Zimmer is faced not with desperation but with a real choice between two good options: Keenum, the hot hand, or Bridgewater, a quarterback he loves and trusts even after all this time away.
Keenum, Bridgewater and Bradford are all potentially above-average options when healthy and playing well — something illustrated by SI.com in a recent piece about the 2018 free agent quarterback class.
The piece noted, interestingly, how the crop of available QBs is potentially much thinner now that Drew Brees is thriving with a revamped Saints team and doesn’t figure to be going anywhere while Jimmy Garoppolo being traded to the 49ers signals he is unlikely to hit the open market.
In ranking the quarterbacks now who figure to be available in 2018, Kirk Cousins topped SI.com’s list. The next three quarterbacks, in order: Bridgewater, Keenum and Bradford. Yes, none of them are under contract for next season. And each of them, based on health and how the rest of this year plays out, could compete for a starting job somewhere next year.
The most likely scenario is that Bridgewater takes over for Keenum at some point this season and — assuming he stays healthy and is effective — is signed by the Vikings to be their QB in 2018 and beyond. But Keenum has made himself a lot of future money this season and Bradford, if his knee heals, still figures to be in the mix for someone next year.
The Vikings have never had all three healthy on the roster at the same time, but they’re at least in a position now where they can choose between two good options.
That’s a much nicer problem to have than the alternative.