Much has been made for weeks now about the uncertainty of the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback situation going forward irrespective of how the 2017 season ended.
And now that their lofty home team Super Bowl hopes have crashed and burned and their quarterback-whispering offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, has moved on to be the head coach of the Giants, there appears to be even more uncertainty about what they will do next at the most important position on the team.
Or is there?
Ask yourself this: irrespective of anything that happened in 2017, if the Vikings' braintrust, so ably guided by general manager Rick Spielman in all other aspects of the operation, believed that any among Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater has the ability to be the future under center, why did they allow them all to become free agents at the end of the season?
The Vikings have had exclusive negotiating rights with all three players for a full season now, and according to our sources, no move was ever made to extend any of them.
If Spielman believes that one or more of the three is capable of competing for and winning championships, wouldn’t he almost certainly have made an attempt to secure that player’s services for the foreseeable future?
We are told by people familiar with the situation that Bradford is the guy the Vikes believe they could win consistently with, and that’s why they gave up a first-round draft choice to get him at the beginning of the 2016 season.
There was no panic from the Bridgewater injury. Few knew Bradford better than Shurmur, and the Vikings felt they knew enough about him to pay dearly to secure the position for the future, not to keep it warm for Bridgewater.
We’re told the Vikings still believe that to be the case — and make no mistake — that’s why he was elevated over Bridgewater to the backup role during the playoffs.
The problem today is that while the Vikings still believe Bradford could be the guy, they know there is just no way they can trust his knees enough to make that investment in him and wait for him to go down again.
The facts around Bridgewater are that he is a fantastic young man who suffered a horrific injury and has made a heroic comeback that is impossible not to admire.
He is also an extremely average athlete and quarterback who showed little prior to the injury to suggest he was ever going to be anything more.
In 29 starts — 13 as a rookie in 2014 and all 16 games plus a wild-card game in 2015 —Bridgewater is an 86.3-rated passer with a pedestrian 7.2-yard average per pass and an awful 28:22 touchdown-interception ratio.
Yes, he is a product of the Vikings' conservative, run-first offense, but Bradford in 17 starts has a 23:5 TD-INT ratio and rating just north of 100, and Keenum is 22:7 and 98.3, respectively.
We understand Bridgewater’s numbers are from the start of his career while he was still just learning, but at the end of the day he is a game manager who is unlikely to put the team on his back in the way Bradford and Keenum have.
So if Bridgewater isn’t the answer, and Bradford can’t be because of his health, what about Keenum?
He had 26 starts over four seasons with the Texans and the Rams, in which he compiled a passer rating in the 70s and a 24:20 TD-INT ratio.
Keenum was absolutely not the reason the Vikings got skunked by the Eagles Sunday, but it was clearly his three turnovers that got the ball rolling.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that Keenum is better than the player we saw his first four years in the league, and just as many to believe he is unlikely to reprise his magical 2017 campaign.
How many of you have even heard of Kyle Sloter, the Vikings' rookie QB who neither dressed or threw a pass this season, but whom the Vikes carried on the active roster all year long?
No one is suggesting Sloter is viewed as the Vikings' QB of the future, but his presence certainly further suggests that Minnesota isn’t married to any of its three veterans as the long-range answer.
We are hearing Minnesota will attempt to re-sign one of the three veteran free agents for the immediate future, but it won’t be with a franchise tag and it won’t stop the Vikings from continuing to acquire more young talent at the position.