Washington Redskins: Case Keenum is a different breed of journeyman quarterback

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images /

The Washington Redskins may have found a solution at the quarterback position in a not so typical journeyman quarterback.

Journeyman quarterbacks usually bounce haplessly around the league moving from one team to another trying to convince someone that they can play. Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum is with his fifth team in seven years. That, by definition, qualifies him as a journeyman quarterback. But his journey through the NFL has been anything but pedestrian.

An overview of Keenum’s “journey” must begin with his record-setting college career. Yes, we all understand that the college game does not usually translate to the NFL, especially at the quarterback position. But, what Keenum did at the University of Houston cannot be ignored.

Case Keenum ranks first in NCAA Division 1 FBS with 19,217 career college passing yards. He is the only quarterback to ever throw for more than 5,000 yards in three different seasons. Keenum is the NCAA all-time leader in passing yards, completions, and touchdowns (155). He added 897 rushing yards, 23 rushing TDs and finished his collegiate career with a QBR of 160.6.

He won numerous conference and All American honors but, as a Redskin, his most relevant recognition was winning the Sammy Baugh Trophy – this goes to the nation’s top passer. Other winners of this trophy are John Elway, Steve Young, Patrick Mahomes and Dwayne Haskins. Keenum is the only quarterback to win the trophy twice since Don Tull did so in 1963.

Despite such impressive numbers, he went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. It is possible that he was overshadowed by all the Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III hype, but it is more likely that scouts did not think the Houston passing attack was one that transferred well to the NFL.

Keenum’s NFL career began as an undrafted college free agent signed by the Houston Texans. He spent his first year in the league on their practice squad. In 2013, he started eight games and had the highest quarterback rating of any Texan quarterback.

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In 2014, the Texans waived him to create a roster spot apparently with the intention of bringing him back after he cleared waivers. However, the St. Louis Rams signed him. But, the Texans wanted him back bad enough to give the Rams a draft pick to bring him back to Houston.

In 2015, the Texans again tried to get Keenum through waivers and again the Rams signed him. This time they would not let him go. This season, the Rams benched Nick Foles in favor of Keenum. Keenum again put up the highest quarterback rating on his that year. The Rams drafted Jered Goff with the first overall pick in the draft the following year as they moved to Los Angeles. Still, it took Goff until mid-November to finally wrestle the starting job away from Keenum.

He was signed the following year by the Minnesota Vikings and, after going 13-3 as the starter, took the team to the NFC Championship. The Vikings then curiously moved on from Keenum, signing the disgruntled Kirk Cousins. Cousins, who inherited essentially the same team, failed to take the team to the playoffs.

The Denver Broncos took advantage of Minnesota’s gaffe and quickly signed Keenum. Gary Kubiak, Keenum’s head coach with the Texans, was now in Denver. They convinced John Elway that this guy was the real deal and Denver signed him to a two-year contract worth $36 million.

Prior to the 2018 season, the NFL players voted Keenum the league’s 51st best player in the NFL 100 rankings. However, Denver struggled across the board in 2018 and Elway decided to use free agency (Joe Flacco) and the draft (Drew Lock) to bolster the quarterback position.

That’s when the Washington Redskins swooped in and picked him up. He is the odds on favorite to start the season at quarterback ahead of veteran Colt McCoy and rookie Dwayne Haskins. Everyone has their own opinions about how Keenum will perform but some fans, as well as coaches and players to be sure, understand that this is not your typical journeyman quarterback.

Coach Jay Gruden has stated emphatically that the starting job will be earned in training camp and preseason. While Gruden’s wildly complex offense gives a decided advantage to McCoy as he knows the offense inside and out, it would surprise a lot of people if he, or the immensely talented rookie, were to beat out Keenum for the starting job.

As Gruden and his coaching staff evaluate the performances of the quarterbacks, they are undoubtedly aware of the numbers each player has on his resume. Haskins has one year of college playing experience. McCoy has started 27 NFL games. Keenum has started 56 games. The Texans liked him enough to sign him on two different occasions. The Rams were impressed enough to bring him back twice. These teams must have seen something that impressed them.

He took the Vikings to the NFC Championship – some have suggested the Vikings too would like another shot with Keenum. Now, surrounded by talent, he gets a chance with the Washington Redskins.

Washington seems to know what they have in Keenum. It’s unlikely they are looking at him as simply a place holder for Haskins. They could win with Keenum running the show this year and it would be a stretch to call it a fluke.

Over the last two years, Keenum has started 32 games, thrown for 8,039 yards and 42 touchdowns, and taken a team to the NFC Championship while maintaining a quarterback rating of 90.

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Whether he can help the Washington Redskins win remains to be seen but he certainly appears to be an ideal mentor for the young Haskins. Either way, Keenum is much more than your run of the mill journeyman quarterback.