The search soon will begin, yet again, for a Broncos franchise quarterback. Case Keenum is a backup impersonating a starter, and this is an acting performance always destined to fail.
We watched this impersonation for two seasons from Trevor Siemian. We watched the impersonation from Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow and Brian Griese and ...
The Keenum failure means the Broncos must find — or try to find — a quarterback who can win hearts and win big and win playoff games. Good luck on that one.
It’s a search full of peril. The past week has been filled with talk of ifs. As in, what if the Broncos had hired Kyle Shanahan instead of Vance Joseph following the 2016 season?
If Shanahan had been hired, Wade Phillips likely still would be the Broncos defensive coordinator, and that would be glorious.
But if Shanahan had been hired, quarterback Kirk Cousins likely would have signed a guaranteed contract with the Broncos. Cousins and Shanahan are allies from years working together in Washington.
Keenum is a $25 million bust, and that’s bad.
Cousins is an $84 million bust, and that’s much worse.
The Cousins bust imperils the future of the Vikings.
Cousins was pitiful in Monday’s loss to the Seahawks, collecting only 130 passing yards over the first 31/2 quarters.
Cousins offers yet another example of how difficult it is to get the quarterback position right in the NFL.
John Elway retired after the 1998 season and two straight Super Bowl victories.
At the time, there was reason to believe the good times would linger even after his departure.
In Elway’s final two seasons, the Broncos won seven playoff games.
In the 19 full seasons since his departure, the Broncos have won seven playoff games.
Five of those wins came with Peyton Manning as starting quarterback. In four seasons, Manning led the Broncos to eight playoff games and an average of 12.5 wins per season.
In the other 15 seasons, 15 different starting quarterbacks led the Broncos to two playoff wins. The Broncos averaged 8.5 wins a season, and missed the playoffs 10 times, with miss No. 11 just around the bend.
I believed Keenum would be steady, if not spectacular, as a Bronco starter.
His numbers with the Vikings last season — 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 14 starts — were worthy of an $18 million per year offer from the Broncos. Keenum seemed a solid investment.
This week, Keenum talked about his struggles, and it was an odd, painful combination of self-endorsing and self-questioning.
“Quarterback is a tough position to play and that’s why I play it because I love it,” he said. “I love the challenge of it. I love how much goes into it. My entire life I’ve absolutely loved having the ball in my hands, making decisions and really being a big part of why my team wins.
“That’s what I want to be. I want to win. I’m a winner, I’m competitive to a fault and I think that’s part of what drives me and makes me who I am. I take it on myself that I’ve got to do better. I’ve got to play better.”
Keenum has long been an overachiever.
He’s a diligent student of the game, and his diligence has helped hide the lack of an elite arm. But a quarterback can only hide so long before the truth emerges.
And we’ve seen this truth and this impersonation before.