There’s the obvious NFL MVP Candidates, and then there is the Unsung Hero of The Twin Cities
By George Kurtz
When you think of who is the Most Valuable Player in the NFL, what player comes to mind? I mean, do you even care? To be honest, I don’t. Well, I don’t care who actually wins the award. It seems so much goes into that vote that isn’t necessarily about who the best player was on the field that season. Sometimes it’s more like who the writers like and who they don’t like. Who gave them a good interview or who they may have owed a favor to. So, I rarely worry about the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, etc. I do enjoy, however, talking about the possibilities.
Who is the MVP? Could it be Tom Brady? Well, of course he is a perennial choice and is having another fantastic season with 26 TDs versus only four interceptions. He’s also completing 68.5% of his passes, the second best mark of his career, and highest since 2007 (68.9%). He may be the favorite to win the award at this point in time.
How about Russell Wilson? He is doing more with less. Sure, he has Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham but he is playing behind an offensive line that has more holes in it than the targets at a gun range. Without his ability to run around behind the line of scrimmage and turn a certain loss into a positive gain the Seahawks would be lucky to be a .500 team. It would be extremely difficult not to give him the award if the ‘Hawks make the playoffs.
In the non-quarterback division, how about Todd Gurley? He’s had a resurgence this season and could very well pass 1,000 yards rushing this week. Gurley only had 885 yards all of last season. While some of his success is certainly due to the emergence of Jared Goff and the passing game, Gurley deserves credit also for buying into the new offensive system and once again looking like the running back we all thought he was going to be during his 2015 rookie season.
Maybe you feel like a rookie should be MVP. Alvin Kamara may be your choice. I can’t deny that he is having a great season, but it took the Saints almost a quarter of the season to realize what they had in Kamara before they gave him the necessary touches and traded Adrian Peterson. Throw in the concussion he suffered Thursday versus Atlanta and while he’s still the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, he’s not the league’s MVP.
But how about a candidate that no one is talking about? Case Keenum should be in the mix if you look at his situation from certain perspectives. I know what you’re thinking, how can someone who not only wasn’t the starting quarterback from day one and only has the job because of an injury (Sam Bradford) be the MVP? How can someone who doesn’t even seem to have the full confidence of the head coach be considered for this award? Mike Zimmer refuses to officially name Keenum as the starter for the rest of the season. Instead, he keeps stating that Keenum will start the next game after each impressive performance. Perhaps Zimmer is just trying to keep Keenum motivated but quite a few people, including voters, will wonder how they can cast theirs for Keenum if his own coach seems to be looking for any excuse to put Teddy Bridgewater behind center.
Case Keenum is an MVP candidate. He wouldn’t be my first choice for MVP right now, but he absolutely has a chance if he plays well over the last six games and some other top candidates falter. The mere fact that it’s possible Case Keenum could be NFL MVP is incredible.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) November 19, 2017
Think about the year Keenum is having for Minnesota, though. He was brought in to be the backup for Bradford. Really, very little was expected from him. He had a poor 2016 season for the Rams and Jeff Fisher. He completed only 60.9% of his passes last season, and this year that number is up to 67.5%. Last year he had a 9-11 TD/INT rate. This year it’s 16-5. What has changed? Having Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph certainly helps as this trio is night and day compared to what he had in Los Angeles last season. Maybe it was just a matter of getting to play for a different coaching staff, as he isn’t the only former Ram QB (Jared Goff) who is playing well now that they are away from Jeff Fisher.
The Vikings have also had to deal with not only a season-ending injury to their starting QB, but their starting RB as well. They lost impressive rookie RB Dalvin Cook, who rushed for 354 yards in four games before going down with a torn ACL. This has put even more pressure on Keenum to move the offense via the pass. Can you name the last team to lose both their starting QB and RB and still have the inside track to have home field advantage throughout the playoffs? While the offense doesn’t necessarily light up the scoreboard as much as a few other teams, it has produced an average of almost 24 points a game. Last season that number was less than 20.5 points per game. That 3.5 point difference may not seem like much, but with that defense, it may be more than enough to make them a Super Bowl contender.
Keenum couldn’t have picked a better time for a career season. Not only might he lead the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in it’s home stadium, but he is also a free agent after the season. Everyone is talking about where Kirk Cousins will end up, but Keenum will also be able to demand a hefty contract after this season. He is only 29 years of age and although the 2018 NFL Entry Draft is expected to be a strong one as far as QBs are concerned, teams may still want to go with a veteran signal caller. Keenum could be in play for Cleveland, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Miami, the Jets, Giants, Denver, Washington, or Arizona.
It’s good to be Case Keenum right now. And he deserves to be mentioned with the NFL MVP contenders.
You can find me on Twitter, @georgekurtz