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Zulgad: Case closed: Vikings look wise for moving on from Keenum

By Judd Zulgad

Apparently that horseshoe Case Keenum carried around with him in Minnesota last season is long gone and so is the adulation that followed him throughout his magical year in purple.

Signed to a two-year, $36 million free-agent deal last March by Denver, Keenum was booed by Broncos fans during a 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. It got so bad that when backup Chad Kelly came in for one play to take a knee before halftime, Denver fans cheered because they believed Keenum had been benched. The Broncos were down 13-3 at the time.

What Denver fans didn’t know, or didn’t care about, was that Keenum was being checked for a concussion. He returned for the second half and again heard the boos.

“Yeah, I heard it,” said Keenum, who finished 25-of-41 for 322 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. “It’s not the first time the crowd has been unhappy with what’s going on. They should be pissed. I’m pissed.”

The Broncos are learning why the Vikings weren’t willing to make a long-term investment after last season and, instead, signed free-agent Kirk Cousins to a three-year, $84 million contract.

Keenum, 30, had been a backup for the majority of his career when he signed with the Vikings before 2017 to serve in that same role behind Sam Bradford. But Bradford’s season was ruined by a knee injury after Week 1 and Keenum played at an MVP-level for much of the year. He started 14 of the final 15 regular-season games — Bradford attempted to start at Chicago but could barely move and was replaced by Keenum — and passed for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and had a 93.8 passer rating.

Keenum’s ability to keep plays alive proved to be a key factor in his success as the Vikings went 13-3, but it made coach Mike Zimmer nervous. Zimmer said after one win that it was as if Keenum was playing with a horseshoe because he was so getting so fortunate. Keenum, whose magical ride came to an end in the NFC championship game, threw seven interceptions and lost one fumble in the regular season.

The Vikings, though, showed little interest in moving forward with Keenum. Enter the Broncos. So far, they have gotten the pre-2017 version of Keenum. Denver is 2-4 and Keenum has throw one more interception than he threw in 15 games last season. Those eight interceptions are tied for the NFL lead and give Keenum one more pick than touchdown pass.

Keenum ranks 28th out of 34 quarterbacks in passer rating (80.5), is 23rd in completion percentage (63.1) and 29th in total QBR (38.8). Cousins ranks 10th in passer rating (102.7), is third in completion percentage (71.2) and seventh in total QBR (70.2). Cousins has thrown only three interceptions, but he has lost five of six fumbles.

That means in six games Cousins has accounted for eight turnovers, or the same total that Keenum had during the 2017 regular season. Nonetheless, the Vikings (3-2-1) have to be very happy with their decision to move on from Keenum.

Keenum isn’t the only problem in Denver but as the quarterback he’s the easiest guy for frustrated fans to boo. Those fans also know that Broncos football boss John Elway signed Keenum and drafted defensive end Bradley Chubb with the fifth pick instead of taking Josh Allen or Josh Rosen.

Elway was an all-time great at quarterback but his inability to find one for the Broncos has been alarming.

Keenum certainly doesn’t appear to be that guy. He reminded Denver of that in the third quarter Sunday when he tossed an interception in Los Angeles territory with the Broncos trailing by 17 points. Keenum also threw two key incompletions in the fourth quarter with the Broncos deep in Rams territory.

Those are the exact struggles the Vikings feared might return if they had stuck with Keenum. The Broncos’ decision-makers were not as astute and are paying the price for that.

The post Zulgad: Case closed: Vikings look wise for moving on from Keenum appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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