A.J. Hoffman: The Case against hitching your wagon to Keenum longterm

What does the future hold for Case Keenum? Twincities.com

Case Keenum has done something I never thought he would do. He had (nearly) a full season of excellent quarterback play in the NFL. In 15 games (14 starts) this year he was 11-3 with 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. He finished with a completion percentage of 67.6, second only to Drew Brees in the NFL this year. He was seventh in the league in passer rating (98.3) and 2nd in QBR (71.3). 

While all that is impressive, it hasn’t changed my mind about Keenum’s long term future. Case is part of a perfect storm in Minnesota. The Vikings have built their team the right way. They are excellent on the offensive line. They have arguably the best defense in the league. They found an excellent play-caller in Pat Shurmer. Not to say that Keenum hasn’t played a major role in their success this year. He absolutely has. The question is whether or not his role in their success is sustainable, and for how long?

The Vikings will have a tough decision to make at the end of this season at the quarterback position. All three quarterbacks on their roster are free agents, and all three can make a case for being the Vikings’ signal caller going forward. 

The Vikings traded up to take Teddy Bridgewater with the last pick in the 1st round of the 2014 draft. Up until his horrific offseason knee injury, he looked poised to be the quarterback of the future. The Vikes are invested in him, and believed in him, even though you could arguably contribute the Vikings' success to his surrounding cast as much as you can with Keenum. He is 26 years old and has a lot of football ahead of him. 

Sam Bradford, a former No. 1 overall pick, was brought in initially to take over after the Bridgewater injury. The Vikings believed the rest of their team was good enough to win, so they gave up a 1st round pick and a 4th round pick to bring him over from Philadelphia. Bradford played very well in 2016, throwing for a career-high 3,877 yards and a 20-5 touchdown-interception rate. Unfortunately, the Vikings didn’t play well around him (they didn’t have a 100-yard rusher all season) and after a 5-0 start finished at a disappointing 8-8. He opened the 2017 season as the starter, and in his opening day start looked brilliant against the Saints, posting a 346 yard, three touchdown performance that gave him a better passer rating than any Keenum start of the season. His balky right knee was an issue again, though, and he missed the next three weeks. Bradford came back to start the week 5 Chicago game, but was ineffective and pulled from the game. He had knee surgery three weeks later. We know former 1st round picks almost always get another chance, but the Vikings may have too much concern about Bradford’s knee to want to commit to a long-term, big money deal with him. 

Keenum has the most obvious recent success. He has taken this team further in the playoffs than anyone since Brett Favre lost the NFC Championship Game after the 2009 season. He also has the least pedigree, and possibly the perceived lowest ceiling of the bunch. An undrafted free agent who seemed destined to be a career backup, he had not taken advantage of his previous opportunities to start. He went 0-8 as a starter in 2013 with the Texans. He went 2-0 in spot starts in 2014, but was largely ineffective. He moved on to Saint Louis in 2015 and went 3-2 for a team that relied heavily on stud rookie running back Todd Gurley. He went into 2016 as the starter for the Rams, freshly moved to Los Angeles, and went 4-5 before giving way to No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. The work he did with the Texans and Rams wasn’t bad work, it just wasn’t starting quarterback work. The Vikings liked the idea of Keenum coming in to back up Bradford while Bridgewater continued his rehab, and signed him to a 1-year, $2 million deal. 

The rest is history. In fact, the story of Keenum’s 2017 season is still being told, and the ending could have a significant impact on what the Vikings do this offseason. It would be very difficult to send a Super Bowl winning quarterback away and go back to pinning your hopes to an injury-prone veteran or a once highly thought of prospect coming off what the team once thought was a career-ending injury. The Vikings also don’t want to be put in a situation where they have to pay Keenum premium money after a Super Bowl win, knowing that he may not be a premium player. 

The Baltimore Ravens are a cautionary tale after giving Joe Flacco a 6-year, $120-plus million contract with $52 million guaranteed. Flacco had just won them a Super Bowl after a fantastic playoff run, but up to that point Flacco had been a good, not great quarterback. Since signing that deal in 2013, the Ravens have gone 40-40, with just one playoff appearance. For the most part during that stretch, Flacco has continued to be a good, not great quarterback. 

Case Keenum has earned the right to be a starter in the NFL. He is one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the league. I just wouldn’t want to be the GM that bets my career on giving him a long-term contract. The Vikings could use the transition tag or the franchise tag on Keenum. The franchise tag would likely be worth $23.5 million and the transition tag would be worth about $21.5 million. Keenum, whose career earnings through five seasons are under $7 million, would likely jump at the opportunity to make that kind of money on a one-year deal. He would then have a chance to prove that 2017 was not a fluke and earn a long-term deal next offseason. If this is the case, the Vikings would also probably attempt to sign Bridgewater to a team-friendly deal to keep him on as insurance. However, the risk of another team coming in and paying him on his upside and outbidding the Vikings is real. 

If Keenum doesn’t win the Super Bowl, I could see the Vikings trying to sign Bridgewater to a long-term deal and offering Keenum a contract that would make him one of the highest paid backups in the league. Of course, there could be another team out there that is willing to take a chance and offer him big money to be their franchise quarterback. If I were Vikings GM Rick Spielman, I would let Keenum walk away if that were to happen. Knowing that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is likely to land a head coaching job at the end of the season, let someone else inherit the risk of paying a career journeyman franchise quarterback money based on a career year where everything fell into place. 

Take a look at these two quarterbacks:

QB A- 38 starts, 20-18 W/L, 8,771 passing yards, 46 touchdowns, 27 interceptions, 86 rating

QB B- 39 starts, 22-17 W/L, 9.752 passing yards, 61 touchdowns, 29 interceptions, 87.4 rating

QB A is Keenum. QB B is his NFC Championship Game counterpart, Nick Foles. Foles had a magical 10-game stretch in 2013 in relief of Michael Vick, going 8-2 with a 27-2 TD/INT rate. At the time, it was thought that he may be the quarterback of the future. He went 6-2 in 8 games for Philly the next season, but his ratios were not good, and the Eagles traded him to the Rams (ironically for Sam Bradford). His success didn’t carry over, and he and Keenum went back and forth between starter and backup over his time with the Rams. He eventually went back to Philadelphia to back up Carson Wentz, who went down late in the regular season, leaving Foles in position to try to guide his team to a Super Bowl.

Teams that have franchise quarterbacks tend to hold onto them. Teams that know they don’t tend to be in a desperate panic mode until they find one. Whatever Keenum does in the NFC Championship game, and potentially the Super Bowl, he has exceeded any expectations I ever had for him. He is a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. I just wouldn’t want him to be the starter for my team. 

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Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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