Case Keenum enters Week 6 ranked 30th in the NFL in passer rating. Only one quarterback has thrown more interceptions through the first five weeks of the season than Denver’s.
Keenum isn’t one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s not even in the top-10 highest paid. Making $18 million this year, Keenum is the 19th-highest-paid QB in the league.
It might not be an elite contract, but the Broncos are paying Keenum about $17.5 million more this season than they paid their starting quarterback last year.
The team invested in the position, but they’re not receiving the return. Keenum has been one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league this year. There’s no getting around that fact.
The excuse that ‘he’s still settling in’ has already been worn out, and if you think about it, didn’t hold water to begin with. Keenum was a transplant in Minnesota last year, but played the most inspired season of his career.
With career highs across the board, including wins, Keenum was a revelation for the Vikings. He’s been a net failure thus far in Denver, and he’s running out of time to turn the ship around.
It’s not like Keenum hasn’t had tools with which to work. Denver’s offensive line has been upgraded by the front office, and is receiving significantly better coaching this year.
The wideouts are talented, versatile and deep. And the running game is producing at near historic rates. All it takes is a triggerman able to competently distribute the ball, and command the offense. That’s what the Broncos thought they were getting in Keenum.
“We’ve had a good share of explosive plays, run and pass,” Keenum said following Wednesday’s practice. “But for us, it’s just execution. I’m getting tired of saying that we’re close because we’ve got to be better.”
Execution has clearly been the problem, but with only a couple exceptions (LT Garett Bolles and WR Demaryius Thomas), Keenum’s offensive teammates have consistently played good football. Even Thomas, who started the season out of sync, has played well the last few weeks. The problem is not the O-line, and it’s not the skill positions.
It’s the situational play-calling and it’s the quarterback. Keenum at least seems to recognize the second part, though I’m not sure it puts him any closer to the solution.
“It starts with me, it really does,” Keenum admitted. “I’ve to get the ball in the right place. I’ve got to get the ball out, I’ve got to get the ball accurately to the right place and let those guys—we’ve got so many weapons—I’ve got to let those guys hunt and go do what they do.”
The Broncos have not lacked for explosive plays. They’ve been among the league’s best at producing plays of 20-plus yards consistently throughout the season.
Denver’s offensive woes come down to three areas; turnovers, third down and red zone. Unfortunately, the Broncos will not improve in any of these areas without the quarterback elevating his play.
One of the cliches you often hear in the NFL is that quarterbacks get paid the big bucks to convert on third down and score points. True.
Keenum’s not getting that done. The Broncos showed him the love, put some faith in him and invested and thus far, he has not repaid them with a performance commensurate with their respective investment.
There are no excuses left. Case Keenum has to play better right now with the L.A. Rams coming to town, or he’s going to get benched and lose the best opportunity he’s ever received in the NFL.
Keenum has until the Week 10 bye. That’s the date to circle on the calendar. If the Broncos don’t improve offensively, they’ll continue to lose.
If they continue to lose, changes will be made to the coaching staff and to the quarterback position. There’s simply too much talent on this roster to justify sustained underachievement. The hue and cry for ‘Chad Kelly!’ in the fanbase will become deafening and too much to ignore for the team.
The Broncos proved their willingness to eat dead money on highly-paid players who underperformed. See: Lynch, Paxton. See: Watson, Menelik. See: King, Marquette.
Don’t make the mistake of believing that Keenum has a job in Denver next year, regardless of how he performs this year, by virtue of the $25 million he was guaranteed at signing. If he gets benched this year, there’s a good chance Keenum won’t be playing for the Broncos in 2019.