The Vikings enter bye week at 6-2 on top of their division and rolling through a four-game win streak. Despite this seemingly positive position the team is in halfway through the season, they face a big decision at the quarterback position upcoming.
With four quarterbacks potentially on the roster when the team enters their week 10 matchup with the Redskins, moves are on the horizon. Sam Bradford, who played at a high level in the season-opening win over the Saints, has not been healthy since. In this regard, Bradford will likely either move to injured reserve for the remainder of the season, or backup Kyle Sloter will be moved to the practice squad (or cut altogether).
Then there is the once-promising Teddy Bridgewater. After more than a year-long recovery process, Bridgewater is poised to return to the lineup in week 10. The Vikings coaching staff now need to determine if Bridgewater, who has not stood under center since the 2016 pre-season, is ready to return to action.
Of course, there is also Case Keenum, who has appeared in the last seven games at quarterback. Keenum has thrown 7 touchdowns and three interceptions (of which two were on tipped balls) and proven himself to be a functional starter. For a Vikings franchise, that only a few years ago rostered Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, and Joe Webb at quarterback, the opportunity to choose between players at Keenum or Bridgewater’s level is a blessing.
The overall speculation of the fanbase and the team moving forward seems to be focused on putting Bridgewater back as the starter in week 10. This should be surprising considering how well Keenum has played as of late. Some fans insist Keenum is nothing more than a backup quarterback, a career journeyman. Yet he is only in his fifth professional season, and already seems to have been labeled as a career backup.
Why bench a quarterback who has played the majority of the season, winning five of seven games, for a player who has not seen NFL action in over a year? On paper, with the names taken out of the equation, the idea sounds ridiculous. But, of course, this is Teddy Bridgewater. Going forward he has the opportunity to be the face of the franchise. When you consider this, things begin to make sense because, after all, no team would bench the face of their franchise. While Bridgewater has the opportunity to become the face of the franchise, he is not at that level yet (at least not after a lengthy injury). Then again, Tarvaris Jackson and Christian Ponder had this opportunity as well.
Keenum deserves to remain the starter for the foreseeable future. He has developed a rhythm with the Vikings receivers, particularly Adam Thielen. The last regular season Bridgewater played in (2015), Thielen had just 12 catches. Additionally, Keenum is also mobile and has found his receivers or running back Jerick McKinnon on bootlegs. Prior to his injury, Bridgewater also displayed this level of athleticism, but it remains to be seen if he can still perform at that speed.
The last major change since Bridgewater was on the field comes in the form of the running game. Adrian Peterson had a 1400 yard year in 2015, which contributed to Bridgewater’s success. Now the running game with Latavius Murray and McKinnon has shifted the focus of the offense away from power running.
Bridgewater is a skilled quarterback with a bright future as a Viking, but he should not be rushed into action mid-season as the starter. Keenum deserves a chance to continue to play as he is the most adjusted to the current offense. In the event Keenum’s production begins to slip, Bridgewater should be given the opportunity to come off the bench and prove himself. Both are talented and possess the attributes to win games but, all things considered, it is best to take the safe route and remain with a proven winner.
Bailey is a senior at St. Cloud State University pursuing a B.S. in Marketing with an emphasis on Digital Marketing. He is known to hold overly high expectations for the Minnesota Vikings each season.