Day: August 13, 2019

Redskins’ Case Keenum is battling for the quarterback job. At this point, it’s all he knows

Washington Post

Late Thursday night, standing in a small room below the stadium in Cleveland, Redskins quarterback Case Keenum scoffed.

It’s easy to suggest that little has been fair for Keenum since Denver traded him to Washington in March. After all, he nearly took the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl in 2017, and he signed the following offseason to be the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Then, just weeks after the Redskins acquired him, they drafted the player who is almost certain to be the franchise’s quarterback of the future, leaving Keenum to fight for the right to be what amounts to a placeholder starter until Dwayne Haskins is ready.

Given his first chance to prove the job should be his, in Washington’s preseason opener Thursday against the Browns, Keenum started the game with second- and third-team players. They faced a defense that featured most of the Browns’ starters, including star pass rusher Myles Garrett.

Yet asked about the unfairness of it all, after he was left exposed as the Cleveland pass rush rolled in, Keenum just shook his head. Unfair? He has been fighting for an NFL job for eight years. Nothing seems unfair anymore.

“It’s not tough,” the 31-year-old said. “I’ve been in this long enough for me to know we’re going to play with different combinations of offensive line guys all year long. So you get 11 guys out there, and everyone is being coached up and is here for a reason. You take that and continue to do your job and get first downs and score touchdowns.”

Keenum’s NFL career has included more than his fair share of unfair. He left the University of Houston as the NCAA’s all-time leader in total offense and touchdown passes, among other records. But he went undrafted in 2012 and had to scramble for a spot on the Houston Texans’ roster, then bounced among the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams, Texans, Vikings and Broncos over the next six years. He started at least two games every year from 2013 to 2018, helped Minnesota to the NFC title game in 2017 and went 6-10 as the starter for Denver last year. But each season brought some kind of scramble, and nothing seemed easy.

Given Colt McCoy’s injury issues and Haskins’s inexperience, Keenum has seemed more and more like the logical choice to begin the season as the Redskins’ starting quarterback. But Coach Jay Gruden has yet to declare him the leader in the competition.

“I don’t want to come to any conclusions right now,” Gruden said. “It’s silly to. There’s still a lot of ball left to be played, lot of passes, lot of things, lot of situational work we still have to do … [and] three [preseason] games left. There’s more work to be had.”

Keenum played three possessions of Thursday’s 30-10 loss. While facing an aggressive pass rush, he completed 4 of 9 passes for 60 yards. His most impressive plays were a 10-yard scramble for a first down, a third-and-nine pass to Robert Davis that turned into a 43-yard pass interference penalty and a 46-yard touchdown toss to Davis three plays later.

“I was impressed,” Gruden said.

Veteran QB Keenum is fighting for his career with the Redskins

Keenum completed 4 of 9 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown in three series Thursday night. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Gruden hasn’t revealed how he will use his quarterbacks in Thursday’s preseason game against visiting Cincinnati. McCoy, who missed the Cleveland game after limping off the practice field earlier in the week, practiced Saturday and is likely to play. If that’s the case, Keenum again might not get more than a couple of series.

He hasn’t complained about his circumstances; any questions about the quarterback battle have drawn quiet nods. After all of the other QB competitions in Keenum’s past, this is just another fight.

“I’ve competed in this league for a long time,” he said earlier in training camp. “I’ve had to share reps everywhere I go. Do I want them all? Yeah, I want to take all the reps. I know I have to stand behind [the others in practice] and I’ve got to pretend that I’m in the rep. I’ve been at places where I was competing for the backup [role] and I traded days. I had a day off, and then I got the backup reps the next day, and I didn’t like that at all.

“So the fact that every day we are getting out there and competing and getting reps — not just mental reps where I’m watching but actually in it, too — it’s been good.”

Right now, it’s the best chance he’s going to get.

Q and A With New York Giants Owner, John Mara

by Scott Mandel

Q: Does this feel like 2004 at all, bringing in a young quarterback and looking ahead?
A: I guess you can make that comparison, yeah. We weren’t quite sure when that was all going to take place and how it would all kind of work out, but yeah, there’s a certain similarity to it. I like to think that we have a better team than we had in 2004, but we’ll see about that.

Q: What have you seen from Daniel (Jones) so far?
A: So far, so good. He’s everything that we thought he would be. He’s been terrific on the practice field, did a good job the other night. I think people need to temper their enthusiasm a little bit. It’s one preseason game, one series, but so far, so good.

Q: When you look at Daniel and praise him and think of things about him, does any part of you also drift toward Eli (Manning), and when you would have that whole dynamic come and go?
A: Yeah, a little bit, but Eli is our starting quarterback and will start the season. He’s obviously been a great representative of our franchise for a lot of years, and will continue to be, so we’ll just have to see how that one unfolds.

Q: Ideally, how would you like it to unfold this season for Eli?
A: I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field. That would be an ideal world. You’d like to see that. Again, at the end of the day, it’s going to be a decision by the head coach as to when or if Daniel ends up playing this year.

Q: Is that true, really? Obviously, you want the team to win a lot of games and make the playoffs, but if Daniel doesn’t play one snap as a rookie, you’d be okay with that?
A: I’d be very happy about that because it means that we’re having a great year and Eli’s having a great year.

Q: Do you think that’s possible?
A: Sure, why not?

Q: John, what do you think that would mean for next year if that’s the case?
A: Let’s worry about next year next year, seeing that we’ve got to get through this season first.

Q: John, you said that the 2004 team was not as talented as this team. What do you see from this team?
A: Well, I think we’ve done a pretty good job in the draft the last couple years and we’ve got some good, young talent on both sides of the ball. I think our offensive line is better than it’s been, so I think there’s reason for some optimism there, but until we start playing some games and winning some games, that’s all it is right now. I also like the feel of the locker room, so we’ll see.

Q: You said you’ll worry about next year next year. You’re fine with holding off on anything with Eli, because obviously he’s in the last year of a contract, until after the season? 
A: I think we’re in a one year at a time mode right now. 

Q: Do you imagine that if and when a decision comes on the quarterback situation this season that you’ll have to approve it?
A: Well, I’d like to be informed of it before I read it from you guys. But, at the end of the day, just like it was in ’04, it was Tom’s (Coughlin) decision back then, and it will be Pat’s (Shurmur) decision this time. Again, hopefully, it’s a decision he doesn’t have to make until way in the future.

Q: You mentioned the locker room. Was the locker room an issue last year?
A: I think it was not as strong as it could have been. I think there’s just a different feel to it this year. I think some players have commented about that, too, so we’ll see. A lot of times, I think that gets taken out of proportion. At the end of the day, if you start winning some games, it builds some enthusiasm, it builds some good feelings, some positive vibes, and I think that’s what we need to do more than anything else. Right now, it feels pretty good.

Q: At this point, what has given you faith in Eli? It’s obviously been a few years since he had the type of success he had earlier in his career.
A: I think he’s played well when the protection has been there in front of him, when he has confidence in the protection. I thought that the second half of last year he played much better, our protection got a little bit better, and obviously Saquon (Barkley) was having a big year. So, I think our offensive line is better this year than it has been, and he’s had a terrific camp so far.

Q: John, Eli’s the longest tenured player in franchise history. How much thought has been given to how hard it might be when you have to say goodbye to him?
A: It’ll be a very difficult, emotional moment, to be sure, but I’m not thinking about that just yet. He’s still the starting quarterback. 

Q: Around the league, Dave Gettleman has taken a lot of heat for the moves he has made, for his attitude, for a lot of things. People are taking a lot of shots at him. Has any of your confidence wavered at all throughout this whole process?
A: Not at all. I think the best thing for me about Dave is he makes decisions that he feels are in the best interest of the franchise and he doesn’t give a damn what people think about it, be it the media, or be it fans, or anybody. He has the courage of his convictions, and you have to have that. He’s set about to try and rebuild this team and change the culture a bit in the locker room. I think, as I said before, our last two draft classes were pretty strong, and that’s what gives me confidence going forward. I think we’re moving in the right direction. Again, until we start winning games, it’s hard to sell people on that notion, but that’s what I believe. 

Q: Did he give you pause at any time about all the talent that went out the door? Not just Odell (Beckham Jr.), but Landon (Collins), (Olivier) Vernon, a lot of guys.
A: I wouldn’t say I had any—there was never any doubt in Dave’s ability or in what his motivation was, or what his skill level was. You don’t like to see all that talent go out the door, but let’s face it, we had one winning season in ’16 and the other five or six years, nothing, not since we won the last Super Bowl, so we needed some drastic changes. Again, he had the courage of his convictions, he knew they would be unpopular moves, but he went and made them anyway. 

Q: What do you need to see this season to consider it a success, or a step forward?
A: We need to win some games. I want to feel like at the end of the season we’re moving in the right direction. I’m not going to say it has to be a minimum number of games that we have to win, or we have to make the playoffs. I want to feel when I’m walking off the field after the last game of the season, whenever that is, that this franchise is headed in the right direction. That’s, to me, the most important thing.

Q: What is your overall patience? Obviously guys don’t last very long if they don’t win?
A: I’m not very patient, I take the losses pretty hard, but I understand that you have to make decisions that are in the best interests of your team in the long run and not worry about the short term as much. It doesn’t make it any easier when you are losing these games, but I understand what he is doing. I think he has us headed in the right direction.

Q: You have a big investment in your future with Daniel Jones. Are your coach and GM tied in with that?
A: Absolutely. I heard something the other day, I forget who the commentator was, that the coach was not crazy about our first-round pick. Nothing can be further from the truth and what sold me on (Daniel) was Dave, Pat and our scouts, Mike Shula, everybody was sold on this kid. That’s what made it easier for me to okay. Pat’s been a huge advocate right from the draft. Everything he’s done so far has been what we expected and what we hoped for. 

Q: What was your role in the whole decision to draft Daniel?
A: I just had the final approval, on all decisions like that. For me, if the general manager and the head coach have a conviction, then I’m going to let them go with it.

Q: Did you watch any college tape of Daniel?
A: I watched a little bit. One of the first questions I asked him when I met him was: do you have thick skin. Then after we drafted him, I asked him: do you understand why I asked you that question. He smiled, he can handle it, he can handle being the quarterback of the New York Giants.

Q: Did it give you pause because of the Eli dynamic?
A: Not really. When you have a conviction about a player, particularly at that position, you better go ahead and take him. So, there was no pause.

Q: Do you see a lot of similarities between Daniel and Eli the way other people do?
A: When I first sat down with Daniel, it was eerie to me how similar. It was like talking to a 22-year-old Eli, which is a good thing.

Q: Are you satisfied with the job Pat Shurmur has done? The team only won five games last season.
A: I’m not satisfied with winning five games, but I think he has us headed in the right direction. I think the players believe in him and we have a lot of confidence in him.