(photo credit: Kyle Hansen)

The miracle season that seems to be Case Keenum’s 2017 could form the basis for the Vikings’ strong performances this year. Ranking seventh in passer rating, eighth in adjusted net yards per attempt and second in ESPN’s QBR, Keenum seems like the major driver to success for an offense that ranks ninth in points per drive this year.

With a top-10 offense and a top-two defense, the Vikings are poised to cause damage in the postseason and possibly be the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Historically, it’s not absolutely necessary to carry a top-tier quarterback to win a Super Bowl, but it’s the strongest indicator of success.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, their quarterback may be a paper tiger. There are a lot of signs that his play may not be sustainable and as of late, relies on luck and one-dimensional tactics that can be exploited in the playoffs.

On one hand, it may seem absurd that a quarterback can go an entire season — over 400 passing attempts — with a consistent level of statistical performance and still be fluky. After all, they have to go through a gamut of opponents in a variety of situations, and 400 passes certainly seems like a large enough sample size to iron out any kinks.

Generally, that’s pretty true. Quarterbacks who perform well in the regular season tend to perform well in the postseason and in following years.

But that’s not always the case, and there are signs that Keenum may be another example of a fluke year from a quarterback.

Quarterback Comparison

By its very nature, there aren’t a large number of examples of fluke quarterback years to compare Keenum to, but we do have some comparisons to either draw parallels or point out key distinctions that distinguish Keenum from other flukes.

Many of those flukes were referenced in a piece a month ago about Keenum’s potential contract and those can serve as a starting point for comparison. To simplify things, it will be important to look at players who have been in the NFL for a few years without posting a great season before suddenly arriving on the scene.

Players who have a storied career before dropping off for a few years can go off and have big years, and that’s not a great comparison to someone like Keenum, who doesn’t have the resume to give him the benefit of the doubt.

At the same time, a quarterback with years of mediocrity before firing off an elite season has a significantly larger burden of proof with reasonable suspicion about their sustainability going forward — much more so than Keenum.

Keenum had 777 attempts and 826 dropbacks before signing with the Vikings and therefore has a solid backlog against which to compare this year’s surprising showing.

There are some quarterbacks who can match that — both good and bad. The chart below lists those quarterbacks as well as how many passing attempts they had before their peak and for how many years. It also lists what their adjusted net yards per attempt was for those years and what they achieved at that peak year. The final column looks at whether or not they’ve sustained their new, higher level of play for more than a few years.

Quarterback Attempts Before Peak Years Before Peak Age at Peak ANYA before Peak Peak ANYA Sustained?
Matt Hasselbeck 350 3 27 4.43 6.25 No?
Mark Brunell 373 2 26 4.82 6.77 No?
Matt Schaub 450 4 27 5.70 6.81 No?
Matthew Stafford 473 2 23 4.06 6.98 Yes
Jake Delhomme 535 3 29 5.56 6.43 No
David Garrard 539 5 29 5.31 6.97 No
Drew Brees 909 3 25 4.63 7.78 Yes
Vince Young 1034 4 26 4.92 7.34 No
Josh McCown 1113 11 34 4.14 7.63 No
Ryan Fitzpatrick 1175 6 29 4.40 5.29 No
Alex Smith 1514 6 27 4.42 6.13 Yes?
Eli Manning 1805 4 27 4.94 6.00 Yes
Mark Sanchez 1867 5 28 4.78 6.18 No
Joe Flacco 1958 4 27 5.89 6.34 No
Andy Dalton 2111 4 28 5.86 8.17 No?
Case Keenum 777 5 29 5.35 7.07 ???

One cautionary tale worth reading into is not on the chart (no rookie-only cases are): the case of Nick Foles. After a poor 265-attempt rookie season where he led the league in TD:INT ratio, passer rating and adjusted net yards per attempt, he dropped off precipitously and is now regarded as a serious liability for the Philadelphia Eagles as they enter the playoffs.

Of course, not all surprise sophomore seasons mean unsustainability.

We’ve seen players like Donovan McNabb and Carson Palmer immediately produce as second-year players after poor rookie showings and turn in fine careers. While only time will tell whether or not the same will be true of Jared Goff — and by some measures, Carson Wentz and Derek Carr — it’s clear that only doing poorly as a rookie isn’t enough to provide a reasonable basis for comparison, for good or ill.

This should also allow us to dismiss Matthew Stafford, who only had three games in his second year before an injury ended his season.

From that group of 14 comparable quarterbacks, that leaves us with about three quarterbacks who look to have had sustainable success following their jump in production, aged 25, 27 and 27. There are some reasonable question marks about successes like Alex Smith, as he’s had some volatility in Kansas City and “failures” like Mark Brunell (who earned two Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl appearance after his peak), Andy Dalton (who will certainly get more chances to redeem himself) and Matt Schaub (who earned another Pro Bowl appearance with two other good seasons aside from that).

Still, excluding all edge cases gives us a hit rate of 22 percent — similar to when including edge cases.

Also worrisome is the fact that each success was relatively young, though Manning and Smith had more than twice as many attempts as Keenum did before turning out. In fact, each success had more passing attempts than Keenum did before hitting a sustainably high level of performance.

If we take it as a fact that Keenum’s 777 attempts prior to the season give us more information than his 450 this season, we should also acknowledge that that information is not always superior — though history suggests that it often is. For about a fifth of quarterbacks, the prior information was less useful than the new information — but it also means that the majority of quarterbacks revealed who they were before they peaked.

There is a second-order sample size issue. We have an admittedly low number of quarterbacks to really draw comparisons from; 14 quarterbacks can hardly provide us with clear data to draw from, but it’s also unlikely that a reasonable sample would overturn our conclusions too much either — it would take 13 successful quarterbacks of the next 16 surprise performers to turn the hit rate from low to 50/50.

So, knowing that there’s a decent chance that Keenum could be more of a Garrard than a Brees, what are the clues in his recent performances telling us?

Statistical Clues

There aren’t a lot of things surface-level statistics will tell us about Keenum’s season that gives us real insight into sustainability. The best indicators of sustainability, like ESPN’s QBR and net yards per attempt (which counts sacks as attempts and sack yardage as negative passing yardage) both like him — in QBR’s case, quite a bit.

But over the final stretch of the season, he’s been playing in a way that should raise eyebrows when digging into deeper statistics.

Excluding the Bears game, his final stretch (since Week 12) has him relying on receivers an inordinate amount for yardage, with 45.5 percent of his yards coming after the catch — 26th of 30 qualifying quarterbacks.

He’s been somewhat reticent to pass the ball deep (ranking 19th in deep passing percentage, per Pro Football Focus) and has been inaccurate when doing so, only hitting his intended target 29.4 percent of the time (ranking 20th).

For reference, Bridgewater – who has long been criticized for his mediocre ability to throw the ball deep — was accurate on 37.5 percent of deep passes in 2015 and hit 40.6 percent of his deep passes in 2014. Keenum’s recent stretch of play includes deep passing that has been worse than what many consider to be the biggest weakness of his backup.

Those two statistics line up with the change in his average depth of target, which has dropped to well below league average. He averaged 7.37 intended air yards since Week 12 (per PFF) while the league average is 8.45 and ranks about 37th of 40 quarterbacks.

Not only that, Keenum’s performance under pressure has dropped, and he ranks 20th in net yards per attempt when under pressure — he had ranked second in the NFL prior to Week 12.

A number of these changes in performance are likely due to regression to the mean, particularly when it comes to performance under pressure. Keenum was leading the league in sack avoidance, with only 4.2 percent of dropbacks under pressure resulting in a sack — twice as good as second place (Philip Rivers) and three times as good as third place (Blake Bortles).

But over the final stretch, he’s fallen below average, ranking 23rd in sack avoidance in snaps under pressure. While it’s true that he has been getting pressured more often, it’s not by an enormous amount; he ranked sixth in pressure rate before Week 12 and second after Week 12. The increase in sacks is largely due to that pressure finally converting, something that was very likely to drop off.

He’s also struggled to throw the ball in the intermediate range. For passes intended to go between 10-19 yards downfield, he’s been averaging 6.08 yards per attempt compared to a league-wide average of 9.86 —a huge dropoff.

Without the ability to complete passes deep or generate yards on intermediate throws, he’s been overly reliant on short passing and after-catch work from stellar receivers in order to get things done.

A YAC-heavy offense isn’t necessarily doom-and-gloom for a team heading to the playoffs. While the three most YAC-dependent offenses lost in the first round of the playoffs last year, the fourth-most YAC-dependent team won the Super Bowl.

Instead, the reliance on after-catch performance is more important because it tells us that the Vikings are no longer relying on Keenum to make explosive plays. The Vikings have had 52 passing plays gain 20-plus yards this year.

Before Week 12, half of the explosive passing plays the Vikings made were on passes traveling 20 yards or more through the air. Only 19.4 percent came on short throws turned into big gains from yards-after-the-catch.

After Week 12, only 25 percent of explosive passing plays came from deep passes — and the other 75 percent came exclusively on short passes that receivers turned into big gains after catching the ball. Unlike in the beginning of the year, there were no intermediate passes that turned into big plays.

Put another way, the Vikings used to rely on deep passes to get big yards. Now, they rely on short passes and after-catch work to get the same yards.

Historically, successful teams that worked with YAC-dependent offenses still were willing to throw it deep. New England ranked 16th in deep passing percentage heading into last year’s playoffs, and threw it deep 15.6 percent of the time once they entered the postseason, a mark that would have ranked second over the regular season, more often than Cam Newton’s Panthers or Palmer’s Cardinals. Their ability to produce yards-after-the-catch wasn’t a singular method of producing yards in their offense.

The Vikings may have reverted to a one-dimensional offense in response to the decreasing effectiveness of a deep passing game that looks to have been built on unsustainable luck and corrections from receivers that won’t always be able to bail out bad throws.

Just as Keenum’s lead in sack avoidance was probably a result of both luck and genuine skill at avoiding sacks, the Vikings receivers’ capabilities of winning contested catches are likely overrepresented by their current sample, even if they’re typically good at winning the ball in tight passing windows.

Screenshot Courtesy NBC Sports

With 60 contested-catch opportunities between them, Diggs and Thielen have been essential to Keenum’s success.

It does happen to be the case that Keenum has been the victim of some infuriating receiver drops, but he’s benefited more from sure-handed receivers than he has suffered from drops.

Since Week 12, which includes a Panthers game with five drops, Keenum has had 5.5 percent of his accurate passes dropped by receivers, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s far better than league average — the sixth-most favorable situation over that span.

With an increasing reliance on yards-after-the-catch, decreasing performance under pressure and consistent dependence on winning contested catches instead of creating real estate for receivers, there’s a lot to worry about with Keenum, both in the playoffs and as a long-term option for the team.

Film Clues

All of that might not matter if Keenum has genuinely sustained his level of improvement when asked to do more — if he demonstrates repeatable, positive traits in those scenarios, these worries could fall away.

Unfortunately, film analysis highlights additional problems more than it assuages any fears.

Keenum has been the benefactor of a number of throws that should have been picked this season that he avoided, particularly in the second half of the year. While his interception rate has increased marginally — from 1.1 percent from Weeks 1-7 to 1.9 percent for Weeks 8-16 — his rate of throws that should have ended in a turnover has dramatically increased.

There are other passes that could have been picked as well, including two underthrown balls against Chicago that turned into pass interference penalties instead of turnovers.

This sort of thing matters — picking on passes that could have been interceptions doesn’t mean that Keenum secretly threw more picks than he did; it’s a demonstration that play might not be sustainable and that interceptions would catch up.

The same thing happened to Christian Ponder to begin the 2012 season. He didn’t throw an interception for four games but nearly threw several picks. He then proceeded to throw six picks over the next three games and eight picks over the next five. The same is true of Foles as he entered the 2014 season.

Analyst Cian Fahey argued that Foles was not just due to come back down to earth but that he was actually a poor quarterback. His argument rested on the fact that Foles also threw a high number of passes that “should” have been intercepted. In 2014, they were.

That “true” interception rate (6.0 percent) would have been the highest in the NFL in 2013. Instead, Foles had the second-lowest. The following year, he had the third-most interceptions in the NFL before getting benched in Week 9.

All quarterbacks benefit from interception luck at some point, and all of them have had to deal with the converse — interceptions created that had nothing to do with the quarterback’s play. But the rate at which Keenum is avoiding those passes is much higher than usual for quarterbacks.

It’s not just interceptions that are concerning. Keenum has also been likely to miss opportunities for big gains.

Above, Keenum misses a wheel route for Jerick McKinnon where he breaks wide open.

In this play, Keenum targets Jarius Wright and doesn’t convert. This route combination is very similar to a “dagger” route combination where the vertical route is meant primarily to clear out space for the underneath route. In this case, that doesn’t happen but the vertical route is wide open in part because of the coverage the Panthers decided upon. That coverage should have dictated a deep shot.
Above, Keenum misses Thielen again. He scrambles for a big gain and largely it’s a positive play, but Thielen was open immediately, and Keenum could have avoided the pressure in the first place by reading the coverage correctly.

These issues have plagued him throughout the final weeks of the season.

While it’s true that one can find examples of quarterbacks “missing plays” on a somewhat consistent basis regardless of the passer, the issue isn’t that another receiver happened to run free — QBs will throw their first read if the first read is open regardless of what other receivers do.

The issue is that Keenum very often will misdiagnose who is open — throwing to receivers well covered instead of open players — or misdiagnose who his first read should be. Very often, he will throw to a route designed to beat man coverage when the defense shows zone — even though the other side of the field has routes meant to beat that coverage. That’s the precise problem with his near-interception against the Bengals up above as well as the final Green Bay example.

There are a number of very good defenses in the NFC playoffs, and four of the Vikings’ five potential opponents are top eight in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA. These defenses are unlikely to make the kinds of mistakes that allow quarterbacks to get away with missing finite opportunities or turnover-worthy throws.

The Vikings have a better defense than any of those opponents, so they might be able to weather the storm even if Keenum does have a bad day. Not only that, Keenum is a genuinely better quarterback than his price tag — currently a $1.9 million cap hit — and looks to be a better investment than Foles, who has had to take over for Wentz in Philadelphia.

None of this means the Vikings will fail in the postseason, it just means the path could be more difficult than the surface numbers imply.

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  1. I’m curious as to your thoughts on the offense stalling in Green Bay and against Chicago. I would have expected them to try and score enough to allow TB some game time action; especially if called upon in the post season secondary to any injuries. Or the crazy concept that Bradford would be the backup. How much do you suspect the offense will improve if Eflein and Rudy are closer to 100%?

    • I think the offense would improve with those two for sure. If Keenum is struggling under pressure in the pocket, one way to deal with that us reducing interior pressure and I think a healthy Elflein does that. The GB game was very frustrating and I think some of that offensive stalling is on Keenum and some of it is on game conditions, like the cold weather.

  2. A lot of stats and mumbo jumbo. I look at his composure under pressure, making plays when he has to and WINS. If the Vikings lose it won’t be on Keenum. This is a kid that was never given a decent shot and now he’s making the best of it. To make more of a case for him; it’s proven you only need an average Qb (as long as you have a team around him) to win a super bowl. SKOAL!!!!

    • CASE KeENUM is a WINnER! It’s been proven that stats are all mumbo jumbo and any attempt to analyze them in a meaningful manner actually changes the outcome.

    • “Mumbo Jumbo”Also known as “Stuff I don’t personally wish to consider” Just looking at one aspect of his game will not give you a total picture of the QB though. Giving Keenum the credit for a win is biased, and ignores many other aspects. I absolutely agree he is very good under pressure, and his pocket presence and mobility is very good. However, he is lacking in some very important qualities. His deep ball is very bad, he underthrows Theilen and Diggs on 80% of the passing plays longer than 30 yards, where guys like Bradford can drill the ball with great accuracy and hit those guys in stride for td’s. Case can only get a 50/50 jump ball situation or a PI penalty. Also, as Arif noted, Case does not identify the defense very well, he also misses seeing guys wide open, while also not being able to anticipate his receiver getting open. Case is not a good qb. watch Sam Bradford’s throws from week one, on all 22 where you can see the coverages, then watch any of Case’s games, and analyze the ball placement and throwing power. It is painfully obvious which one is an NFL arm, and which one isn’t.

    • Rick:

      Riddle me this: what would this stacked team’s record have been with a healthy Bradford, a healthy Teddy, a healthy Culpepper, Ponder, T-Jax or Favre? Do any of those QBs “win” fewer than 12 games?

      If you want to refute the arguments, by all means. But, saying the team won doesn’t do that.

      • 12 or more wins with a healthy Bradford, Bridgewater, Culpepper or Farve, absolutely. For that matter, I could see any of them going 14-2 with this team, and Keenum, too, if he had had a full week to prepare against the Steelers.

        Getting this team to 12 or more wins with a healthy Ponder or Jackson, while not impossible, would still be less likely than with the above QB’s.

  3. Good analysis as usual. Here’s hoping the offensive line remains healthy and the running game strong, and that the defense is more than enough to cover up for deficiencies on offense or special teams.

    • Good analysis? He cherry picked negative stats from different parts of the season and Keenum’s career to prove his point.

      “If you take the 700+ pass attempts prior to this season and ignore the current season” …it only proves you’re ignoring the most consecutive time he’s spent as a starting quarterback.

      “If you take the games since week twelve and exclude the most recent one” it proves you can’t make a point without cherry picking parts of a season to make a point.

      I’m a little upset that I wasted so much time reading this crap.

      If you take the first sentence of this article , it seems like it might be well thought out. If you take the rest of the article, it is a waste of time and half ass analysis.

      • I excluded the Bears game because the tracking statistics weren’t available at time of writing yet. Much of the piece was written using statistics available at the time.

  4. I LURV me some Keenum AND I agree w your take away. Here’s hoping he can regain some of the magic from earlier this year and that our O-Line can stay healthy. The two seemed to go hand-in-hand. ????????????????????????

  5. At this point, we’ll see. It’s too late to experiment with anything else. I hope he doesn’t get bamboozled in the playoffs. The numbers suggest that he may struggle when forced to make plays against the best in a lose-and-go-home atmosphere.

  6. I think the home field will help, more time to concentrate and see the defense. Hopefully two weeks of film study will also help. I like yolo Keenum, but hopefully a stifling D and crowd noise will keep Keenum boring.

  7. I do not comment on anything but i have to comment here. Sometimes you also have to look at the situations they are put in on certain teams, First look at his time in Houston Kubiak ( who recently acquired a ring ) Had all the confidence in the world in him, but the Houston media (ring leader Nick Wright) kept calling for Kubiaks head head from the beginning of the season. What chance does a new quarterback have with a team that is already defeated due to negativity in the media ? Next almost the same situation with the Rams, In fact increasingly complicating that situation was a move from St. Louis along with a bad head coach. To prove this fact look at Goff this season is it a fluke ? Sometimes the environment surrounding the individual can influence the development. He did have almost a perfect game against Tampa Bay when in St Louis 158.0. How many QB’s have ever done that ? He is legit. He is now on a team that supports each other and does the right things. How many QB’s would do what he did when Teddy returned to the field ? He is a Christian and believes in his faith. According the media kneeling in faith (Tebow) for a touch down is wrong but kneeling during the anthem is right ??? Keenum’s faith is another reason why the media try to ridicule him. I am sick and tired of the media trying to prove themselves right when they cannot see the forest through the trees. GO VIKINGS GET TO THE SUPERBOWL AND PROVE THESE MEDIA NAYSAYERS WRONG !!!

    • So having Hopkins and not succeeding because of media is acceptable?

      Also the Rams situation changed in 2017 with mcvay, IL with Whitworth and receivers with woods, Watkins, kupp, kittle.

      Keenum ha had favorable situations, definitely more favorable than Teddy and he hasn’t produced.

      • Arif didn’t comment on this, but there is exactly one guy who finally hit his stride at this age AND on his 4th team: Lucky Rick Gannon. So, it could happen again–and Gannon did it with Brown/Rice, a very strong OL and good running game.

        But it seems especially unlikely to happen after 3 other organizations said “nah, we’re better without him”. The guys above who “hit” were either on their first team, were highly-thought of back-ups who were blocked by an established starter, or were Drew Brees who still went to his 2nd team as a big money UFA.

    • I don’t live in Minnesota and probably watch and read far less sports media than most of you, but I’ve never seen anyone deride Keenum or his play for his faith, or even hint at it. I’ve seen two comments section regulars at other sites who I dislike intensely – so much so that I’ve told both of them to drop dead – accused of racism for their criticism of Teddy Bridgewater’s play, but I rose to one’s defense because I had never caught a hint of racism in his comments, and I haven’t piled on the other because, while also not smelling any racism in his words, I just haven’t seen enough of them to have a definitive opinion on the matter. Ken, I hope you have real evidence to back up your charge that members of the press/media ridicule Keenum in part for his Christian faith.

      By the way, Arif may not be perfect – I see some QB’s listed above who did sustain their peak level for several years after the season listed, although some of those peaks were pretty modest to begin with (see Delhomme, Jake) – but he is the best analyst-in-depth for the Vikings that I’ve ever read, and I’ve been following the team for 40 years.

  8. This is an article that seeks to prove its own conclusion with secondary and tertiary stats while ignoring primary ones. The offense of Keenum is picking up more first downs, eating up more clock and scoring more points AND, critically for the defense, is scoring points earlier than it ever did with Bradford or Bridgewater. Bridgewater didn’t manage a single offensive TD drive in his last two games at GB and at home v Seattle. That’s 20+ drives – 0 TDs. But, we are here to discuss Keenum’s “slide” which somehow includes a 20-23, 270 yard, 2 TD game versus Cinci.

    • True, secondary and tertiary statistics don’t erase the contributions made in the form of primary statistics. However, it is very reasonable to use these statistics to determine if those primary numbers are sustainable. As Arif pointed out, Nick Foles’ primary numbers in his second season were superb, but he failed to sustain them over a career.

      If Keenum’s ability to evade pressure has regressed, and his deep and intermediate passing has regressed, then it is reasonable to conclude that Keenum’s numbers might be the product of something other than his own skill as a quarterback, either luck or his teammates. If this is the case, it might not be sustainable in the long term. (Of course, with three games at most remaining in the season, the long term might not matter).

      The eye test suggests to me that the passing game just *looked* less effective in December than it did in November. I also think that his supporting cast is doing more to elevate his level of play than he is doing to elevate theirs. But this might not matter in the long term – if Keenum is simply being carried by his defense and supporting cast, QBs worse than Keenum have won a Super Bowl with teams worse than the one surrounding him. Frankly, I don’t think this team needs much better than a game manager, and I think he is at least slightly better than that.

      But would anybody be THAT shocked if he laid an egg in the divisional round?

  9. This article contorts with secondary and tertiary stats to try to disprove the primary & obvious — that the Vikings offense under Case has scored my points, converted more third downs, gotten more first downs, turned it over less and controlled the clock longer than it ever did with Bradford or Bridgewater. It is also baffling how anyone can watch Case dismantle the Bengals and say that he is in a slide. He had a shaky half against the Skins, and some shaky plays against Carolina. That’s been about it.

  10. Anyone who has watched these games can see how often he underthrows his receivers. He’s been lucky as hell that he hasn’t had more turnovers, and that’s exactly what this article is saying.
    As a QB you gotta put it where your receiver can get it but the defense cannot. You’re not going to do that by underthrowing long balls. He’s been lucky and hopefully that continues through the post season.

    • Given Bridgewater’s mediocre performances as our QB, I can live with an underthrown ball or two by Case. Case is a gunslinger who will put the ball into tight spaces. Bridgewater won’t throw the ball unless there’s 5 yards of separation between his target and the coverage.

    • I was looking at quarterbacks who hadn’t had a good season until they hit a peak and multiple poor years before it. Cam had a good rookie year.

  11. Some of the stalling in that last GB game was the uber conservative play calling as well. Once we had a slim lead Schurmur seemed to opt to run the ball and keep Case from throwing. We had a 1st down inside the red zone at one point, and I believe we were just inside the 10 yard line. Rather than opt to throw the ball 3X to see if we could put 6 more points on the board, we instead we ran the ball and settled for a FG. This, despite the fact that we put up our first 6 points using the short pass in the end zone. Zimmer believes once the Vikings gain a reasonable lead his team can then rely on defense to win the game. I think that’s a mistake, and indeed the same mistake I watched Bud Grant make many times. 90% of the time relying on defense works. But when you meet the elite teams like Pittsburgh or New England, you have to keep putting points on the board whenever the possibilities present themselves.

  12. So Arif, based on your analysis who do you sign nd for how much int he offseason. Is Case good enough to be your starter over the next two years….or do you let him walk and sign Teddy to an extension…or sign both to one or two year deals and let the best man win. My thoughts…sign both and let Bradford walk

  13. “Ranking seventh in passer rating, eighth in adjusted net yards per attempt and second in ESPN’s QBR, Keenum seems like the major driver to success for an offense that ranks ninth in points per drive this year.”
    That’s because he is “the major driver to success”. Part of being a good QB is giving the talent around you opportunities to succeed by avoiding sacks, fumbles, interceptions, sustaining drives by converting on 3rd downs, and rewarding players that get open down field and taking shots. Bradford did not give those same opportunities due to inability to avoid sacks and converting on 3rd downs compared to Keenum. Teddy did not give those same opportunities due to inability to convert on 3rd downs and unwillingness to throw down field compared to Keenum.
    “The chart below lists those quarterbacks as well as how many passing attempts they had before their peak and for how many years.”
    The chart you provided was a great way to support the other “Keenum’s potential contract” article as far as sustainability in the following years of the “outlier season”. What it fails to address is the statement of Case Keenum being a “liability going into the postseason.” If you want to make that claim then you should analyze the postseason performances of the “outlier seasons” of all the QB’s on the chart. Sustainability of following seasons is does not indicate that he is a liability in the current “outlier season”.
    “Excluding the Bears game, his final stretch (since Week 12) has him relying on receivers an inordinate amount for yardage, with 45.5 percent of his yards coming after the catch — 26th of 30 qualifying quarterbacks.”
    I would like to know where the other highly regarded QB’s rank since week 12. How many good QB’s have WR’s that produce a high percentage of YAC? Also if this is an indicator of poor QB performance how much can be attributed to conservative gameplanning that’s been obvious towards the end of the season.
    “For reference, Bridgewater – who has long been criticized for his mediocre ability to throw the ball deep — was accurate on 37.5 percent of deep passes in 2015 and hit 40.6 percent of his deep passes in 2014.”
    You failed to mention Bridgewater’s deep passing percentage which is a HUGE criticism when comparing him to Case. That is one of Teddy’s biggest criticisms. Also how much of Keenum’s lower deep passing percentage in the last stretch is due to weather and other factors that led to conservative game planning. Another thing you haven’t factored in are the amount of pass interference flags that Keenum has drawn when throwing down field in comparison to Teddy. That is why you must mention Teddy’s deep passing percentage.
    “Not only that, Keenum’s performance under pressure has dropped, and he ranks 20th in net yards per attempt when under pressure — he had ranked second in the NFL prior to Week 12.”
    So far this a better argument than the other ones you made for why Case might be a liability going into the post season because he goes from #2 in one category to #20. But how relevant is “net yards per attempt when under pressure”? Things I’d be more curious about is how whether or not 3rd down conversions went down or difference in completion percentage when under pressure. If you complete passes for less yardage but get more 1st downs does that really mean your QB performance is dramatically worse?
    “Instead, the reliance on after-catch performance is more important because it tells us that the Vikings are no longer relying on Keenum to make explosive plays.”
    After the Carolina game the Vikings didn’t need Keenum to make explosive plays so they erred on the side of conservatism when calling the plays having comfortable leads against Cincinatti, Green Bay and Chicago. A strategy that I don’t agree with but you must consider when looking at the decrease in statistical performance. If we were playing higher caliber teams the decrease wouldn’t be as drastic. I’d be worried if we were trailing in every game and Keenum was asked to produce more explosive plays but failed to produce.
    “The Vikings may have reverted to a one-dimensional offense in response to the decreasing effectiveness of a deep passing game that looks to have been built on unsustainable luck and corrections from receivers that won’t always be able to bail out bad throws.”
    Or since playing Cincinnati we’ve been more conservative because of weather conditions in Green Bay and making sure we don’t get players injured before the playoffs. Again, I don’t agree with the game planning but that those can be reasons why we’ve ran the ball more. Historically the Vikings get more conservative towards the end of the season and a decrease in QB performance after week 12 doesn’t always lead to poor performance in the playoffs. Teddy’s Avg. QB rating after week 12 91.38. Favre 98.98 in 2009 Keenum 107.13. Teddy and Favre finished the season with a decrease in statistical performance compared to before week 12 but both weren’t liabilities in the playoffs. Favre actually excelled in the playoffs. I’m going off of QB rating but there’s a decrease in every other stat as well since week 12 for both Teddy and Favre.
    “It does happen to be the case that Keenum has been the victim of some infuriating receiver drops, but he’s benefited more from sure-handed receivers than he has suffered from drops.”
    It would help to see the comparison to other QB’s with sure-handed receivers. It helps any good QB to have good receivers. There could be other receivers that get open more or generate better YAC. That doesn’t always negate what you would describe as good QB performance. There are some outliers like Brady and Rodgers that don’t need elite receivers but in general every QB benefits from their supporting cast and it doesn’t make them less of a good QB.
    “Keenum has been the benefactor of a number of throws that should have been picked this season that he avoided, particularly in the second half of the year. While his interception rate has increased marginally — from 1.1 percent from Weeks 1-7 to 1.9 percent for Weeks 8-16 — his rate of throws that should have ended in a turnover has dramatically increased.”
    If you’re going to do stats on throws that “should” have been intercepted then you have to compare it to every starting QB in the league because every QB gets away with throws that “should” have been intercepted. Comparing it to Nick Foles is not enough to make the claim that Keenum’s luck will run out because one other QB’s did. You must factor in all the QB’s.
    Takeaways: This article does not give compelling reasons for Case being a liability. It poses good arguments for why we should not resign him when looking at history of other QB’s. It seemed like any possible negative stat you could find on Keenum was found in this article to find any little reason to undermine his performance. One thing that stats will never measure: intangibles. The only stat that could remotely measure that is W-L record. 13-3 baby! #Skol

  14. Stats show a piece of the story and this article does a nice job of reviewing them. However the intangibles are what are most critical. The QB needs to set a winning tone. He has done that and you can see how the team believes in him. Brady, Roethlesberger, Rodgers, Montana – Where they play, they win. Keenum actually had a decent winning percentage at Houston and LA when you see what the other QBs did those year.
    We’re going to see a game these playoffs where the vikings will be down a score late in the game and they will need him to step up. That is what we have not seen yet. In the Carolina game, he threw the out to Diggs a split second to late and the vikings settled for a field goal and then lost. I just hope we can see him step in playoff game the way the great ones do. For now I just don’t know.

    • So a wildly successful, record-setting college QB loses his intangibles for 5 years, taking 800+ snaps with 3 separate organizations, but somehow found his intangibles again in an old pair of jeans this year? That’s possible one supposes, but seems just a bit unlikely, no?

      If you want to sell the intangibles idea, it’s a lot easier with a guy like Rusty Wilson who came in as the back-up, used his verve or “intangibles” to take the starting gig, won early (thanks in material part to a running game and defence) and developed into a great passer who started carrying the load himself. Cut and paste Brady into that paragraph (swap in a severed artery) and it fits pretty well, too.

      This looks far more like a hot streak, not an epiphany, metamorphosis or suddenly finding the missing intangibles again.


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