Case Keenum understood, as well as anyone, that he was a placeholder.
He understood two Aprils ago, when the Rams traded up for the No. 1 pick and two weeks later, when they drafted Jared Goff. Keenum heard the press conference, same as we all did, when Jeff Fisher and Les Snead declared Goff “our guy” and the Rams “franchise quarterback”, and in the months that followed, as the urgency for Goff’s ascension grew feverish and the chants at the Coliseum began and reporter after reporter asked about him losing his job before he’d even lost it, Keenum knew that sooner or later the day would come.
When it finally did, he was upset, nonetheless. “In my mind,” Keenum said, “it’s my team. That’s the way I viewed it. It’s my offense, and I took ownership of it.”
This was how Keenum had survived as an undrafted, undersized journeyman, after all. He never saw himself as the quarterback keeping another quarterback’s seat warm. He’d always envisioned something more than what the Rams, what everyone, had in mind for him.
Apparently, Case Keenum knew something no else did.
Fourteen months after the Rams took away his starting job, Keenum will start at quarterback for the NFC favorite Vikings on Sunday, as they sit two wins away from the Super Bowl. His season has been the stuff of sports movie cliche — the former practice squad quarterback signed for a dirt-cheap, one-year deal and then thrust into action due to injury — and, apparently, destiny — before leading his team to the doorstep of the promised land.
Keenum is the only undrafted quarterback in the NFL to take double-digit snaps this season, and yet, he has outperformed nearly every single player at the position. His completion percentage (67.6) ranks second in the NFL, behind only Drew Brees. Football Outsiders ranked him as the NFL’s best quarterback this season in their DVOA metric, ahead of Tom Brady. It’s not unreasonable to think he will garner a few MVP votes later this month, after starting the season third on his own team’s depth chart.
And yet, as the Vikings have bludgeoned their way to 11 victories in 12 weeks, with their once-journeyman quarterback guiding a mostly faceless offense, Keenum has not been given the credit he deserves. To some, he remains the placeholder he was in Los Angeles, just with more offensive weapons and a competent system around him.
But it’s time that perception was put to rest. It may have been fair to cast doubt at first,…