Can Keenum Exceed Expectations And Be Better Than A Backup?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington picked up journeyman quarterback Case Keenum from Denver in early March for pennies on the dollar, but his on-field performance — not acquisition price — will determine whether this move will be viewed as a success.

The Redskins traded a 2020 sixth-round pick for Keenum and a 2020 seventh-rounder hoping that the former Broncos, Vikings, Rams, and Texans signal-caller can stabilize the team's situation behind center. After veterans Alex Smith and Colt McCoy each suffered debilitating leg injuries last season, there was no doubt Washington had to bring in reinforcements to the quarterback room.

Targeting Keenum was the first move Washington made to address the sport's most important position, and selecting Ohio State standout Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick was the next. If Haskins isn't the Week 1 starter on the road in Philadelphia, Keenum will get the nod in hopes of being a capable "bridge" quarterback from the team's spotty track record at the position in recent years to the future.

But could Keenum be more than a temporary place holder, and should the Redskins want him to be?

Early reports indicate the rookie has clearly been the better player, which is a very encouraging sign for a fanbase that would do nearly anything for a first-year quarterback to light it up for more than one year and lead the franchise to sustained success. There are several quarterbacks in recent memory — Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Baker Mayfield come to mind — who were thrown into the fire as rookies and didn't get burned, but the Redskins wouldn't complain if Keenum exceeded expectations and returned to 2017 form.

Prior to his breakout season with the Vikings in which Minnesota made its first NFC Championship appearance since 2010, Keenum was viewed as nothing more than a backup. He had an 11-15 record as a starter up until then, which made his 11-3 record in 2017 surprising, to say the least.

In the 2018 offseason, the Broncos gave Keenum a two-year deal worth $36 million, which he wasn't able to live up to. Granted, Keenum had much more to work with in Minnesota than Denver, and it's safe to say Washington's roster in 2019-20 is shaping up to look much closer to the 2018 Broncos than the 2017 Vikings.

But Keenum wasn't solely a product of his environment, as former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins couldn't rekindle Keenum's magic with the Vikings last season. Minnesota's roster was mostly the same last season, but the team finished in third place in the NFC North at 9-7, which led to speculation about who deserved most of the credit for the Vikings' breakout year in 2017. Former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur did a masterful job before taking the head coaching job with the Giants, who went 5-11 in his first year, so saying Shurmur alone "made" Keenum is an exaggeration.

With the Broncos, Keenum went 6-10 as a starter, completed 62.3 percent of his passes, threw for 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and threw for 3,890 yards. Those numbers aren't impressive, but what if Keenum bounces back under Jay Gruden? Many view Keenum as a one-year wonder and a lame duck as Haskins eagerly awaits to take the reigns of the team, but if he can be more than that, the Redskins shouldn't complain.

It's not yet time to mention Haskins in the same sentence as 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, but the second-year stud lit the league on fire after starting just one game in his rookie year. He sat behind Alex Smith — ironically now with the Redskins — while the Chiefs rolled to a 10-6 record, then took over after Kansas City moved on. It's a long-shot, both Keenum playing as well as Smith in 2017 and Haskins ever playing as well as Mahomes did last year, but stranger things have happened.

Redskins fans: Is there any situation in which you'd be happy to see Keenum under center for a majority of the season, or are you all-in on Haskins already?