By NEAL FARMER
The case for Case is forming. The Houston Texans didn’t want Case Keenum at QB when he was here, and he bounced around with Los Angeles before eventually landed in Minnesota.
Under Keenum, the Vikings have won seven straight games to go 9-2 overall, and he is running the Vikings so smoothly that he is keeping Teddy Bridgewater – who was the face of the franchise before an ACL injury in Aug., 2016 – on the bench. He is playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL.
So why is Keenum so good with the Vikings and was so average with Houston?
1) It could be maturity. Keenum set NCAA passing records when at the University of Houston, so the ability to sling the ball has always been there. Maybe he finally has been able to see the big picture.
On Thanksgiving, he did not throw an interception against the Lions. And it looked to me like some of the throws were through windows of opportunity that were only slightly cracked open.
2) It could be his selfless leadership, and not caring who gets the credit. He is helping Adam Thielen have a career year. 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, according to a story that quotes Randall Liu, the NFL’s senior director of football communications.
3) It could be that in Houston Keenum was considered short by Bill O’Brien – it is no secret that he favors the tall QB who wins the beauty contest getting off the bus – but has not been kept under wraps due to his height by the Norsemen. The quarterbacks in Seattle and New Orleans are short, and they have won Super Bowls.
4) Could it be that Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is better at getting quarterbacks to perform than O’Brien? Before he was hurt this year, Vikings QB Sam Bradford (knee) looked like the real deal. And now it is Case’s turn to be a big deal. It looks to me like O’Brien only really opened up the Texans offense when he got Deshaun Watson and not with anyone else. Keenum has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 2,476 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions in his first year with the Vikings. He has the NFL’s 10th-best passer rating at 96.2.
5) Keenum formerly was thought of as a journeyman QB who is excelling. Do the Vikings keep him for next year and trade Bridgewater? Or Bradford? If Keenum is let go, would he end up in a place desperate for elite quarterbacking, like all the other teams in the AFC South but Houston? Will his current $2 million contract be worth $10 million next year? $15 million? More?
6) The Super Bowl this year is in Minneapolis. Do you think the Vikings would sing songs about Keenum in their snowed-in bars for decades if he can win the local Super Bowl with the local team?
7) Did Keenum sell his soul to the devil? I mean why else would a Texas native be in the hellishly cold Great White North?
Spoiler alert – Keenum is from Abilene in West Texas and his parents live less than 10 blocks from my parents (long distance in the Key City.) We both grew up there but do not know each other, other than to say hi during meetings. And no, I do not think I would let that geography affect my judgment.
Keenum is playing too well for this to be a fluke. He played at Abilene Wylie High School, whose colors are purple and gold. Maybe the Minnesota colors just woke him up. But the longer this goes, the more money for Keenum next year, and the more the NFL has to remember that there can be love for short people in that league.
WHITHER GOEST ALABAMA? – I have to admit I am tired of the University of Alabama being considered one of the top teams in the country every frickin’ year. So I rather enjoyed the Crimson Tide losing on Saturday to Auburn in a rivalry game.
But if you take a look at the ratings, does this mean that Alabama will be left out of the four-team college playoffs?
Does Auburn beating Georgia in the SEC title game – or even if it is the other way around – mean that the SEC will have only one team in the four-team playoff? (I can already hear SEC people saying Bama, Auburn and Georgia should all be in the playoffs. Please, give me a break.)
Personally, I think no conference should have more than one team in the college playoffs. But if Alabama had lost its game near the beginning of the season, would it matter less for their record? Of course, not being in a conference championship game is supposed to count in the unknown, double-secret probation formula used by the selection committee.
One thing is certain, more people believe in Divine Intervention about this year’s playoff pairings if Alabama makes the playoffs.
ALABAMA BASEKTBALL DOESN’T NEED FIVE PLAYERS – Did you see the bench-clearing almost-fight hoop game with the University of Minnesota and the University of Alabama over the weekend? The Crimson Tide had only three players to end the game – and almost won. I have never, ever seen anything like this outside of junior high school hoops, where three players almost outplayed five.
ROCKETS ROLLING – Houston has won five of six games in the last two weeks by at least 15 points. With Chris Paul back on the floor after an injury, that means he and James Harden can tag-team each other to put All-Pro pressure on opposing point guards. And what will the offense do when Paul gets into a flow?
That makes Houston one of the levels of hell, like Dante’s Inferno, for opposing point guards. It’s nice that our hell-like humidity isn’t the only thing that bothers out-of-towners.
CLASSIC NOTES – The University of Texas Longhorn Band and the Texas Tech Goin’ Band From Raider Land got together on Saturday night in Austin and shared the field for a classic performance. They played an abridged piece from the finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which included actual cannons firing like Tchaikovsky wrote. It was an awesome performance, which had fans on both sides of the aisle give a standing ovation.
QUOTE OF THE DAY – The only atheists in Alabama are the ones who don’t believe in Bear Bryant. – Wally Butts of the University of Georgia, but a saying that could be brought out of retirement if the Crimson Tide makes the NCAA football playoffs this year.
HOTTIE OF THE DAY
Want to be an Auburn fan for a day?