Chase Keesum must begin to prove Saturday that he’s no One-Season Wonder.
Er, Case Keenum.
The Broncos’ new quarterback was introduced in March by John Elway, who gave Keenum a $36 million contract, as “Case Keesum.’’ And 10 days ago at the Celebrity Golf Tournament, NBC’s Heather Cox, in an interview with Keenum, twice referred to him as “Chase.’’
Case just grins. And bears it.
What will be he called next — Casey Kasem, Corporal Klinger, Chris Kristofferson, Captain Kirk or Captain Kangaroo?
Many Case critics will say he wasn’t even the best available C.K. QB.
But the Broncos, and every other NFL team, don’t care for Colin Kaepernick.
You’d think that Keenum, who won an ESPY last week for “Best Moment In Sports,’’ would be known as a worldwide leader and appreciated.
Yet, as with the Texans and the Rams before (both twice), the Vikings didn’t want Keenum anymore.
Whatshisname was welcomed warmly, though, by the Broncos.
Which QB will he be — the gentleman journeyman for four years who won only nine of his 23 starts, or The Minnesota Main Man who guided the Vikings to a 12-4 record last season, stepping in as a third-thought quarterback, and who connected with Stefon Diggs for the miraculous playoff victory over the Saints?
The Vikings chose to sign Kirk “K.C.’’ Cousins for $57 million more than Keenum will receive from the Broncos.
(It should be noted that Kirk’s former general manager in Washington did call him “Kurt.’’)
Keenum has a fresh place to start.
However, peculiar press pundits aren’t properly impressed.
On six different respected websites ranking the potential 2018 NFL starting quarterbacks, Keenum has been listed at 22 (by two “experts’’), 23, 25, 26 — and 28th by the league’s own analysts at NFL.com.
The cumulative median by media is Keenum is 24th best, or ninth worst. Case is in the same range with Sam Bradford (who he replaced in Minnesota), Patrick Mahomes (who started only one game, the finale against the Broncos), AJ McCarron, Mitch Trubisky, Ryan Tannehill (injured the last two seasons), Andrew Luck (who can’t even throw regulation-sized football) and, uh, Blake Bortles. He’d probably be rated behind another C.K. if Cody Kessler were a starter, not a Jags pickup.
Let’s be totally truthful. The Broncos will go as far, or afar, as Keenum takes them.
If he plays extremely well, the Broncos should return to the postseason.
If he plays poorly, Vance Joseph will be fired after the 49ers game; the Broncos could finish last in the division again; Keenum will be looking for another locale, and the Broncos will be searching for a fifth starter since Peyton Manning retired.
Keenum turned 30 in February. He still is 6-foot-1. He has a career completion percentage of 62 (67.6 in ’17), an average of 213 passing yards per game (236.5), 46 touchdowns and 27 interceptions (22 and 7).
His success is contingent on a suspicious supporting cast.
Bill Musgrave will be an upgrade at coordinator, and the five new offensive assistants are an improvement over the previous gone group. Joseph needs to stay out of their way.
But the offensive line remains iffy because of injury recoveries by veterans Ron Leary and Jared Veldheer and the lack of cohesion as a unit. Case has been sacked 71 times previously.
The Broncos will be dependent on four unverified tight ends who have 26 receptions and two touchdowns combined. Jake Butt has been anointed the starter without playing a game. Denver tight ends have become Claude Rains, the invisible man.
Are Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders an extraordinary, or ordinary, duo in 2018, and will Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton contribute immediately? Can Keenum or anybody else trust Isaiah McKenzie and Carlos Henderson?
And the new order of running backs is TBD. Keenum primarily will operate out of the shotgun, and which one — Devontae Booker, Royce Freeman or De’Angelo Henderson — emerges as the principle runner-blocker, or will there be a cluster effect?
Case in point: If Keenum fails, his name will be forgotten quickly. If he makes a Mile High Miracle, everybody will know his name and be glad he came.