Captain Case will become the 21st quarterback to start an opening game for the Broncos on Sunday.
He obviously aspires to be the 16th to win one.
“It’s the first game, so it’s really important. ... You want to start fast; you want to start right at home. ... I want to win, especially bad,’’ Case Keenum said the past week after being voted a team captain by the players before taking a formal snap with the Broncos.
Only seven quarterbacks have started a playoff game for Denver. (You forgot about Gus Frerotte.) If Case is to be the next Broncos’ QB in the postseason, much depends on His Own Self.
Is he “The Miracle Worker’’ from the last playoff game the Vikings won against the Saints, or a mediocre worker who won nine of 24 starts previously, and never had appeared in the postseason?
Is a superhero cape apropos for Capt. Case?
USA Today’s “For The Win’’ Thursday ranked Keenum 29th of NFL starting quarterbacks heading into this season. Despite the 11-3 record he registered after taking over in Minnesota he is only rated ahead of the Bills’ Nathan Peterman, Jets rookie Sam Darnold and Blake Bortles (who helped get the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game). Case is not on the same planet with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and the man he idolized — Drew Brees.
Other publications classify Case at 23rd or 24th.
He certainly isn’t esteemed — even in the AFC West. Case is placed fourth behind Phillip Rivers, Derek Carr and Patrick Mahomes, who had one start (in the finale in Denver last season).
What does a guy have to do to get some respect around here?
For starters, “You have to score points to win in this league, and you have to take care of the ball, which isn’t easy against Seattle,’’ Keenum said.
Yet, he has beaten the Seahawks and their short, exceptional quarterback, Russell Wilson, twice in three previous starts, which is more than the Broncos have done in this decade.
Keenum — one of the sharpest, smartest and nicest quarterbacks ever to play in Denver — will captain a revised offense with six, or even seven, players who weren’t starters with the Broncos in the victory over the Chargers in the 2017 home opener. As he acknowledged, the Broncos must score 20 points or more, a level they didn’t reach 10 times last season. And they definitely can’t give up 22 interceptions and 20 fumbles (not counting six wasted away by Isaiah McKenzie, who was returned to the roster after nobody else was interested).
All except two of the culprits (including three quarterbacks) in those miss-demeanors are no longer on the active roster, and five coaches were fired.
The Broncos’ offense was abysmal, appalling, atrocious and awful, among adjectives and adverbs.
The new leader, Keenum, will be responsible for turning around an offensive offense.
He’s got the older, mostly dependable Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who used to account for 180 combined catches and more than 2,300 yards annually before falling off the field in ’17.
The duo will be relieved by the presence of air apparents Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.
Underachiever Devontae Booker has been replaced at running back, mercifully, by rookie Royce Freeman, and Phillip Lindsay is the amazing Swiss Army Knife.
Keenum will be grateful for those guys, but uncertainty abounds again at tight end with the Big Ten Conference Alumni Club — Jeff Heuerman (Ohio State), Jake Butt (Michigan), Matt LaCosse (Illinois) and Troy Fumagali (Wisconsin), who is on IR. Can Capt. Case connect with any of them for more than 20 receptions and two touchdowns?
The offensive linemen have to be Case’s best friends. Last year the Broncos’ Three Stooges were sacked 52 times (tied for third worst in the NFL). Keenum suffered the same number over the past six seasons.
Keenum doesn’t have to be John Elway or Peyton Manning, but 3,800 yards and 27 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions and a 10-6 record, would be cheered.
On a two-year contract, Capt. Case must put the Broncos back in the playoffs in 2018 and/or ’19 — or else.
Or else, a 22nd quarterback will start the 2020 opener.