Case Keenum Has Answered Vikings' QB Question, so What Comes Next?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 23, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 19: Case Keenum #7 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on after the game against the Los Angeles Rams on November 19, 2017 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

DETROIT — The Minnesota Vikings have what you would call a gorgeous predicament.

On the bench is a bright young talent named Teddy Bridgewater. You may have heard of him. He's the future of this franchise at quarterback. Probably. Without question. Right?

On the field is Case Keenum, who has been a journeyman for much of his career. A scout for one of the teams Keenum played for joked to me he used to call Keenum "Case the Face" because Keenum's bad throws always caused the scout to make pained expressions.

The Vikings have good options at quarterback. That's the nice part. The predicament? What do they do moving forward?

Keenum is playing as well as almost any quarterback in football. He's making throws into windows so tight, the waft of turkey and stuffing couldn't get through them, but his footballs do. And while making all of those nice passes, Keenum is also observing the cardinal quarterback rule: Do no harm.

Against the Lions, he didn't throw an interception. No matter what happens from here, Keenum has carved out a nice future for himself. More on that in a moment.

Minnesota's 30-23 win over Detroit did more than just cement the Vikings as a legitimate Super Bowl threat or push the Lions out of NFC North title contention—it also showed just how stupid it would be to replace Keenum now with Bridgewater.

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 23: Quarterback Case Keenum #7 of the Minnesota Vikings runs with the ball against Anthony Zettel #69 of the Detroit Lions and Tahir Whitehead #59 for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first half at Ford Field on Nove
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Making that move would be one of the more foolish things a team has done in a long time. Bridgewater is a good man and player (and good story), but none of that should matter now.

The Vikings have won seven consecutive games. They are 9-2, the best start for the team since 2009. They lead the NFC North by three games over the 6-5 Lions with five games to play. They are smart, vicious and have rallied around Keenum. Don't mess with good chemistry.

Minnesota will win the NFC North, and while a playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles or New Orleans Saints would require Keenum to leave his comfort zone and grow even more than he has, the Vikings are formidable because he fits so neatly into what the team does: Play hardcore defense, run the ball and don't make a lot of mistakes.

Keenum is also making everyone around him better. It's no coincidence that wide receiver Adam Thielen is having a career year with Keenum at quarterback. Thielen and Randy Moss are the only two Vikings in team history to have at least 70 catches and 1,000 receiving yards in the team's first 11 games, per Randall Liu, the NFL's senior director of football communications.

"He's fearless and he's made the most of his opportunity," said Thielen of Keenum.

Then there was this blunt assessment from a Vikings player to me, echoing something Mike Zimmer told reporters several days ago. The player compared Keenum's, um, jewels to King Kong's.

Alrighty then.

That is a theme when you talk to Vikings players and coaches. They think Keenum is fearless.

You saw some of those guts on one particular play as the Lions came within four points in the fourth quarter. It was a seven-yard completion to receiver Stefon Diggs as Keenum was hit by cornerback Darius Slay, but the throw was perfect. Keenum finished the game 21-of-30 for 282 yards and three total touchdowns.

Keenum's passer rating was 121.8, his fifth game this season with a rating of at least 100 and his third straight, per Vikings PR.

No, you cannot bench him. Not yet.

This brings us back to the team's gorgeous predicament or, at least, another aspect of it. Do the Vikings bring Keenum back next season or let him go and trust Bridgewater?

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

One of the key components when trying to answer that is Zimmer himself. He's proved to be a sort of low-key quarterback whisperer. Before Sam Bradford was injured, Zimmer had Bradford playing well. That couldn't be said before in Bradford's career. When Keenum played with the Rams, under the offensive genius of Jeff Fisher (sarcasm alert), Keenum wasn't good. Now, under Zimmer, he is.

That's not happenstance.

If Keenum were to leave, would he receive the same type of high-caliber coaching he's getting now? Would he be the same fearless quarterback? Or would he revert to the old Keenum?

If he does leave, however, he'd be one of the top free agents on the market in a league desperate for solid quarterback play.

Meanwhile, this Vikings team is for real. 

"We're not playing to get in the tournament," Zimmer told his team after the game. "We're playing to f--king win at home."

As in the Super Bowl is in Minneapolis this year.

With Keenum, they have a legitimate shot. Why not them? Why not now?