Evolution of the Starting quarterback: A Case study on Keenum
Its Spring 2017, the opening day of the Free agency with Jared Goff set as their starting quarterback and former third-round pick Sean Mannion as his backup, the Los Angeles Rams have decided not to resign their 2016 starter Case Keenum. Keenum ended his Rams tenure with a respectable 7-7 record under the head coach Jeff Fisher, who was presumed as a quarterback killer.
After starting his career 0-8 for Houston Texans in their atrocious 2013 season, Case Keenum compiled a 9-7 record in his next 16 games with the Texans and Rams. Even then there were no takers for Case Keenum in 2017 free agency. Nearly after a month into the free agency, Keenum is still available for the teams to sign, no team wanted him. Cut to 2018 Free agency, Keenum became the first free agent quarterback to sign a two year 36 million dollar contract with almost 25 million of it is guaranteed.
2017 was the kind of season Keenum has been waiting for since he entered the league in 2012. He put the entire league on notice by showing he can be the guy for the right team. IN the words of Keenum, instead of proving the doubters wrong, he proved his believer correct.
Keenum's rise is one of the best stories in NFL in last year. Let's take a look at how Keenum's play has evolved over the years and why 2017 is not a fluke.
Also read: Best Quarterbacks of All Time
Tenuous Texans Tenure
Coming out of the University of Houston after breaking all kinds of NCAA passing records it was surprising to see that Case Keenum went undrafted. Gary Kubiak, then Houston Texans Head Coach gave Keenum the shot. He redshirted his rookie season on the practice squad.
But in 2013, due to an injury to the starting quarterback Matt Schaub and as Texans are looking for a spark on a disappointing season, Kubiak promoted Keenum to the starting role ahead of the backup TJ Yates. Keenum had an unfortunate way to start his career in one of the loudest stadiums, the Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Keenum was decent in his debut, not turning over the ball and kept the Texans in the game. But it was in his second start at home against Indianapolis Colts that Case Keenum let his guns loose. The first half show by Keenum is probably still his best performance. Andre Johnson was the happiest of the bunch in the Texans locker room reeling in three Touchdown passes in the first half alone. Johnson, who was having a down year suddenly got back to an amazing form, thanks most part to Keenum's YOLO type of throws.
Case Keenum was significantly better than Matt Schaub that season but still couldn't record a single win, part of it due to injuries and defense not being up to their dominance. Keenum didn't have Arian Foster during his starts. He almost had zero running game. That is not the kind of pressure you want your young QB playing his first season to face. Yet, Keenum kept Texans in the games. The matchups against Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals, and New England Patriots are the best examples. Keenum would put the Texans in the winning position but the defense would end up leaking points on the other end.
During the final weeks, Texans have fired the head coach Gary Kubiak and hired Bill O'Brien to succeed him. O'Brien understandably brought his own quarterbacks by cutting loose all three 2013 Texans QBS including Keenum. Keenum then signed with the St. Louis Rams Practice squad.
But the injury bug bit the Texans big in the position in 2014 forcing them to sign Keenum off the Rams Practice Squad. With Playoff berth on the line Keenum, who got the call from the Texans while deer hunting, played brilliantly helping them win both the games. By not signing Keenum right after the starter Ryan Fitzpatrick got injured was one of the big mistakes Bill O'Brien might have made. If the Texans had Keenum for their week 15 loss against Indianapolis Colts, they probably would have won it and made the playoffs, instead, they had to depend on other results, which didn't work out well.