Mike Zimmer said he has decided who will start at quarterback Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, but he’s not announcing it yet.
Zimmer will tell his players Wednesday whether Case Keenum, who has won five games in a row and is third in the league in QBR, will start against his former team, or whether Teddy Bridgewater will get his first start since suffering devastating knee injuries in August 2016.
We asked four NFL insiders who they think should start in a battle of 7-2 teams:
The Minnesota Vikings have put a premium on ambiguity in the past 48 hours — everything from Mike Zimmer talking about having a plan for managing the quarterback position and then expressing that “sometimes plans change” in that same breath. There have been multiple hints made toward a shift in personnel, but the Vikings will ride with Case Keenum against the Rams. Keenum paired magnificent moments (304 yards passing, 4 touchdowns) with horrendous blunders (two really ugly throws resulting in interceptions) against the Redskins. If those picks were returned for touchdowns, we wouldn’t be talking about Keenum seeing another start. But the fact is, he hasn’t done enough to get the job taken away just yet. He’s 5-2 in his starts and has championed a top-10 scoring offense with the help of some really skilled playmakers. His leash is certainly getting tighter, and if he doesn’t quell some of that fearless gun slinging that got him in hot water twice against Washington, he’ll find himself on the bench. — Courtney Cronin
Let’s take this from the perspective of Mike Zimmer. Yes, Teddy Bridgewater has more upside, more natural talent at the position when compared with Case Keenum. But this is also a 7-2 football team at a critical moment of the season. Hey, it’s time to make a serious run and punch that ticket to the dance.
Because of that, can you just make the switch here with a quarterback who hasn’t seen game action in over a year? That seems like a stretch to me. As a coach, I would have concerns about the lack of live game action. And Bridgewater hasn’t thrown a pass in a competitive situation in a long time. That’s why I have to look at Keenum’s fit right now in Pat Shurmur’s offense, his development this season and the positives he has put on tape.
Sure, the two picks he threw this past Sunday? Those were rough. But he also tossed four touchdowns in that game and has played pretty good football with the opportunity he was given to run the show this season. And if I’m Zimmer, this isn’t the time to take any unnecessary risks for a team that has a shot to win a division title. That’s why I’m sticking with Keenum as the guy — for now. — Matt Bowen
Maybe I’m just a sucker for the underdog who’s getting a chance he was never supposed to get and succeeding with it, but I stick with what’s working here. The argument for going to Teddy is a ceiling argument and may well be legit. And Keenum’s crazy interceptions with a big lead Sunday were enough to make you wonder. But who’s to say Bridgewater, after not playing for a year and playing for only two before that, isn’t a risk to turn it over, too? Keenum has chemistry with the Vikings’ excellent receivers and is productive and winning. I’d look for a clearer sign that has stopped before moving away from it. — Dan Graziano
Case Keenum has played better this season than Teddy Bridgewater has at any point in his NFL career. If that isn’t a reason for picking Keenum over Bridgewater, what is?
For the most part, Keenum has been the downfield-throwing, ball-protecting quarterback the Vikings were hoping Bridgewater would one day develop into. In eight games, Keenum has completed 31 passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air. In 2015, Bridgewater completed 43 such passes — in twice as many games.
And it’s not as if Keenum’s extra aggressiveness has led to more mistakes. He has committed five turnovers in eight games. Bridgewater had 12 in 2015.
Bridgewater is only 25, and it was reasonable to think he was about to take a big leap before his August 2016 injury. His generally cautious approach might be a better match for Zimmer’s expectations for the position. But there is nothing on the field, this season or in years prior, that justifies a change at this time.
— Kevin Seifert