COMMENTARY: Vikings' decision to wait on QB says everything
EAGAN, Minn. — Mike Zimmer had a crystal ball in his office at Winter Park this season and it's fair to assume the gift from a local clairvoyant will land at the team's new offices in Eagan when the last boxes are moved across 35W on Monday, Feb. 26.
It was a good season for the Vikings. Why risk the fates' fury by changing things now?
This is the question on the frowning lips of many Vikings fans who feel the team's quarterback controversy is a canard. Case Keenum came off the bench to lead Minnesota to within one game of its first Super Bowl since 1977. Why change now?
Zimmer talked about his three quarterbacks Thursday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis much more freely than the general manager did on Wednesday, which is understandable because Rick Spielman will be the one ultimately picking the Vikings' 2018 quarterback.
Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford all took snaps for the Vikings last season. All are pending free agents. Because all have a major question attached to their futures, all might play elsewhere next season — because none of those questions will be answered by the time free agents can sign on March 14.
"I have a crystal ball," Zimmer told reporters at the Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday, "but I don't have it with me."
Bridgewater has played two series since dislocating his left knee so badly in August 2016 that doctors initially feared he might lose his leg. Bradford started two games last season because of an injury to his left knee, the third season-ending injury to that knee since he joined the NFL in 2010. And Keenum, well, his future might be the most difficult to predict.
The Vikings have science to help gauge the health of Bridgewater and Bradford. They must rely on past performance to answer the big question surrounding Keenum, which, as Zimmer put it, is this: "Is Case the guy that he was last year or two years ago?"
Vikings fans are understandably on edge. They thought Bridgewater was their guy after he led Minnesota to the playoffs as a sophomore. They thought Bradford was the guy after Spielman used a first-round draft pick to acquire the former No. 1 overall pick in the wake of Bridgewater's injury.
Now, after Keenum leads the team to its first NFC title game in nine years, the Vikings appear set to let him test free agency, telling fans, in so many words, "Hold on, we might like someone better." Keenum was 9-15 as a starter, with 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, before the Vikings signed him to back up Bradford for $2 million last season.
"The process that we're going through right now with Sam, Teddy and Case," Zimmer said, "(is) we're trying to determine exactly where these three guys are."
Where's that crystal ball?
The coach did make one thing clear, telling reporters that next year's quarterback will be the one he and Spielman believe will make the offense better than it was during a 13-3 regular season. Keenum is not the best free-agent quarterback. That's Kirk Cousins, available — for a number of reasons — despite averaging 4,392 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions since becoming Washington's full-time starter in 2015.
Zimmer said his wish for Keenum is that he goes on to have an outstanding career, adding, "hopefully it's with me, but if not I wish him the best of luck."
Cousins will be expensive, but the Vikings have the cap space and money to sign him. With so much in place, including the NFL's top-rated defense last season, they are an attractive suitor. NFL teams can't talk to free agents until March 12, and the Vikings clearly want to see what Cousins has to say.
The only decision that has been made is the decision to wait, and that tells us everything we need to know.
"You go back with Case, he plays outstanding this year," Zimmer said. "You go back and you look at what he's done in the past and where he's at this year. Then, really, what we have to try to do is figure out what is the best scenario for us."