Who starts? Who sits? What to make of the Minnesota Vikings quarterback dilemma.
What do you do when you have three kind of/sort of potential starting quarterbacks on your team? Well, that’s exactly what the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff has to decide to do with Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater within the next few weeks of the season.
If you follow the Vikings at all, you know that before last season started, starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a horrendous knee injury that was thought to be potentially career ending. At the time, the Vikings were thought to be potential Super Bowl contenders and needed an experienced quarterback to run the show.
Enter Sam Bradford, whom the Vikings traded their 2017 first round pick for. After sitting out the first regular season game, Bradford started week 2 against the Packers. He went on to have a very respectable 286-yard and 2 touchdown performance in a winning effort against the division rival. Overjoyed fans quickly anointed him the savior of the season, and had forgotten all about the first rounder they had given up. Of course, this happiness was short lived and the Vikings ended up going a disappointing 8-8 the reminder of the year.
Fast forward to the 2017 season. Sam Bradford is now the starting quarterback and has stated he feels much more comfortable after being in the system for a whole year. At this point, Bridgewater is mostly an afterthought despite reports that he’s way ahead of schedule. The Vikings signed Case Keenum, who most recently played for the LA Rams, to be their top backup quarterback. Despite being the all time leading passer in college football history, the fifth year quarterback out of the University of Houston hasn’t quite found his footing in the NFL. He struggled in his starting role for the Rams last year, eventually being benched in favor of then rookie Jared Goff.
With hopes renewed, the Minnesota Vikings played their first regular season game against the New Orleans Saints. Again Sam Bradford lit it up his first game of the season, throwing for 346-yards and 3 touchdown passes. The Vikings headlined the opening week’s highlights and seemed poised for a great year. Then reports started to surface of a potential injury to Bradford’s knee. At first, head coach Mike Zimmer and Bradford himself downplayed the injury to the media, but as the week went on, the reports continued to get worse until he was surprisingly downgraded to out. This came to be a surprise to many, as there was no indication in-game that he had suffered any kind of injury.
With the understanding that Keenum would probably only start one week, fans hoped that he could do just enough to get them the win and onto week 3 for Bradford’s return. Keenum, of course, struggled to do anything against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Vikings lost. It was later found out that Bradford’s knee was much worse than originally anticipated, and that Keenum may be starting for a while.
Though Vikings fans feared the worst, Keenum came through with a monster game in week 3, posting a 369-yard and 3-touchdown performance in a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fans and media alike started to wonder if Keenum could actually lead this team if Bradford ended missing significant time. Then came the week 4 matchup against the Detroit Lions, which almost looked exactly like the Pittsburgh game a few weeks earlier. Again, Keenum struggled in a losing effort, giving fans the same dread they had after week 2.
A report then surfaced that Bradford might play against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Bradford did indeed start the game, but looked noticeably overwhelmed, as he struggled to perform his drop backs, and often fell down at the first sign of pressure. To anybody watching, it was obvious that he tried to come back much too early, and may have actually set him further back into his recovery.
Since then, Keenum has lead the Vikings to four-straight victories (including being the spark that propelled them over the Bears 20-17). Although he hasn’t looked great, Keenum has produced just enough to give the defense an opportunity to win on a weekly basis.
With Reports of Teddy Bridgewater being cleared for practice, the Vikings may have a potential quarterback issue. The big question is who gives the Vikings the best chance the rest of the season? In the next slides, we will review each candidate and decide who’s the best option going forward for the Minnesota Vikings.
During the tenure of Teddy Bridgewater as the Vikings starting quarterback, we’ve seen mixed results. He’s only played two seasons in the NFL, and to this point, has a relatively small sample size. Bridgewater has thrown for 14 touchdowns in both of his first two seasons. He’s been characterized as more of a game manager and hasn’t been known to throw the ball downfield early in his NFL career. In 2015, Bridgewater led the Vikings to their first playoff berth since the 2012 season, and was starting to look like he belonged in the NFL.
2016 was supposed to be Teddy’s “breakout” year, with many NFL analysts predicting that he would take the next step. Then the injury happened. This, of course, was no ordinary injury, as Bridgewater severely dislocated his knee, as well as tearing his ACL and other structural damage to the knee. Doctors and team officials feared that this injury could be career-threating, but after performing surgery and seeing that there was no significant nerve damage, there was hope that Bridgewater could one day return.
Fast forward to week 8 of the 2017 season and we’re hearing reports that Bridgewater could be available after the week 9 bye. If these reports are true, will we see Head Coach Mike Zimmer call Bridgewater’s number? This is definitely a possibility given that Zimmer absolutely loves Bridgewater, who he helped to draft back in 2014.
No one really knows how bad Sam Bradford’s knee really is, and because Zimmer is so reluctant to give any information, we may never know. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, “It doesn’t sound like Sam Bradford will be ready anytime soon.” This isn’t very encouraging news and suggests that Bradford could be out for an extended period of time, if not the season, if we don’t see improvement soon.
Keenum, who as we stated, was supposed to be the backup. Yet, he has led the Vikings to four-straight victories heading into the week bye. He’s filled in rather admirably for the injured Bradford, and has at least earned the right to be considered for the starting job for the remainder of the season. While his numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet, he’s been fairly efficient, with seven touchdowns to only three interceptions. Besides his first start against the Steelers, Keenum has given the Vikings a chance to win every game, which is what you want out of your backup quarterback.
Currently, the Vikings are sitting atop the northern division at 6-2 and appear to be playoff contenders. This makes the decision a little more difficult due to the higher stakes at hand. If they weren’t contending for a playoff spot, I think the obvious choice would be Teddy Bridgewater. He’s still young and is highly motivated to play for his next contract. Among the three choices, Bridgewater has the best long-term prospects and it would be nice to see what he looks like after the injury.
At this point, it’s tough to see Bradford coming back anytime soon, so for the sake of this article, we’ll assume Bradford is done for the year, or at least reserved for emergency use. That leaves the decision down to either Keenum or Bridgewater.
The Argument for Teddy Bridgewater: The Vikings need a quarterback for the future. They will have exactly the opposite problem next season, as all three aforementioned quarterbacks will be free agents in 2018. Before the season, the dilemma was whom the Vikings should resign for the 2018 season, Bradford or Bridgewater, but now it’s hard to see Bradford playing another snap in a Vikings uniform. Bridgewater is still relatively an unknown in the NFl, and the Vikings need to see how he looks before making a long-term commitment to the former first round pick.
The Argument for Case Keenum: While the defense deserves a lot of credit for the Vikings 6-2 record, Case Keenum has been exactly what you want a backup quarterback to be. Since week 2, Case Keenum has led the Vikings to a 5-2 record, including four-straight victories entering the bye. While his stats haven’t been overly great, he’s given the Vikings enough offense despite injuries to top receiver Stefon Diggs (missed most of three games) and rookie sensation Dalvin Cook (out for season).
The Winner, Case Keenum
In my opinion, Case Keenum has won the right to start for the remainder of the season. He’s been playing well and is currently the healthiest option for the Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater may be the future of the franchise, but the Vikings need to win now, and because he hasn’t played a snap since 2015, we don’t know what to expect. At this point, Keenum is the safer option and should be his job to lose moving forward.