Sure, the Vikings’ season ended with a bit of a disaster when they fell 38-7 to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. And there’s no doubt quarterback Case Keenum didn’t have his finest day, completing 28 of 48 passes for 271 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and a fumble.
It wasn’t all Keenum’s fault. Two of those turnovers resulted from the offensive line not blocking the Eagles’ potent pass rush. But Keenum did throw his first pick-six of the season and had his first turnover of the year in the red zone, and those memories might be hard for Vikings fans to forget.
But if you look at Keenum’s season overall, there is no doubt he has to be strongly considered as the starting quarterback for the Vikings next season.
His overall numbers were great — completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions — and there were several games where he showed his ability to make big plays while controlling the offense.
But here’s the biggest thing: As much as Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford have shown great ability in the past, no one has any idea if they are completely healthy or if they could play for an entire season.
That was why Keenum was so valuable in the first place. While it’s clear it will cost way more than $2 million per season to keep him. ESPN is saying the Vikings might have to put a franchise tag on him, which would cost around $20 million. Keenum has shown he’s not only a crucial piece of a depth chart but also that he can lead a team to a division title.
Keenum was asked if there was one point in the season when he felt like he could really be the starter.
“In my head, it was from the beginning,” he said. “… It’s something that I had to prepare like I was being the starter. If I wasn’t preparing like I was going to be the starter, then I wouldn’t be ready to play.”
The Vikings’ big turnaround during the regular season came during their eight-game winning streak. Keenum said each victory built up the team’s confidence.
“The more plays we made with those guys, the more confidence we got,” he said. “I think they had confidence in me, and I had confidence in them. The chemistry kept building.”
Keenum said that while he knows the season didn’t end how anyone wanted, there were still a lot of positives.
“For the fans, obviously that’s not how we wanted to end it,” he said. “There’s a lot you can’t take away from us as Vikings this year and what we were able to accomplish and the moments and memories that we’re going to be able to share forever. I know I appreciated it, and my wife really appreciated it.
“We appreciate Minnesota and how welcoming and open that you guys have been. It’s been an incredible season for us as a family, for us as a team, a family team. I can’t say thanks enough.”
Keenum said he thinks his play this season showed his ongoing quest to improve.
“I played [like] me, but better,” he said. “That is the way I have treated my whole career: If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. I’ve tried to get better each day, each month, each season, each year. I’m better.”
Keenum said his relationship with former offensive coordinator Pat Shumur, who was announced as the New York Giants new head coach Monday, really paid dividends.
“We got along great. He’s a great coach,” he said. “It has been great working with him this whole year.”
When asked if he would like to return to the Vikings, Keenum said many factors go into that decision, but one thing is certain: He has enjoyed his time in Minnesota.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Keenum said, “but we love it here.”
Unlikely Giants QB
While several New York media members have wondered if Keenum will follow Shurmur to the Giants, most seem to think there are a few obstacles.
One of the big ones is quarterback Eli Manning, who is under contract for $10.5 million in 2018, $11.5 million in 2019 and has been the face of the franchise for over a decade.
And then there’s this: The Giants have the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft. So even if they want to start over with a new quarterback, it might make more sense for them to keep Manning for a year or two, draft a top college quarterback and let him learn from Manning before taking any real snaps.
But if he desires, Shurmur could sell Keenum on how the offensive system the coach built around him really helped his game. And while the Vikings might promote Kevin Stefanski to offensive coordinator from quarterbacks coach, they might also look outside the organization for that hire, and that coordinator’s system might not mesh with Keenum’s style.
• This week StubHub.com reported the average Super Bowl ticket price was $6,122. The cheapest ticket was going for $4,944, and around 1,600 tickets were available on the site.
• Bovada, the sportsbook out of Las Vegas, reported that while the Patriots had the best odds to win the Super Bowl from Week 1, the Eagles started the season with only the 16th-best odds at 40-1.
• In 2010, the Patriots traded Randy Moss and a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft to the Vikings for a third-round pick in the 2011 draft. The Patriots, like the Vikings, always have been fond of draft-day moves. They took that third-round pick, swapped it and eventually netted 2017 fourth-round pick Deatrich Wise, who will be in the lineup for the Super Bowl on Feb. 4. Wise, a defensive end, had 26 tackles and five sacks this season. He added two sacks in the Patriots’ 35-14 divisional round victory over the Titans.
• The Vikings will have the 30th overall pick in the upcoming draft. The last time the Vikings picked 30th was in 2010, after they lost in the NFC Championship Game to the Saints. They traded that pick to Detroit for a second- and fourth-round pick that netted them cornerback Chris Cook and defensive end Everson Griffen.
• Keith Law of ESPN recently released his top 100 baseball prospects and shortstop Royce Lewis, the Twins’ No. 1 overall pick last year, came in at No. 25 overall, the highest-rated Twins player. Also on the list was shortstop Nick Gordon at No. 37 and pitcher Fernando Romero at No. 47.
• With guard Jimmy Butler and center Karl-Anthony Towns recently being named All-Stars, it’s amazing only five Timberwolves in 28 seasons previously made the game: Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Sam Cassell, Tom Gugliotta and Wally Szczerbiak.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. • email@example.com