When the coaching carousel began in early January, the rumor was that Pat Shurmur wasn't riding it alone. Some people around the league believed that wherever the coach ended up, current Vikings quarterback Case Keenum would end up, too.
So now that Shumur is "likely" to be the next coach of the Giants, according to multiple sources, does that mean that Keenum is likely to be their next quarterback too?
There are a variety of reasons why Keenum, a 29-year-old journeyman who is having a career year under Shurmur's direction in Minnesota, is not going to be the Giants' quarterback next season, even if he truly were the player Shurmur preferred. And that's true no matter what happens when Keenum leads the Vikings into the NFC championship game in Philadelphia on Sunday, or even if he gets the Vikings to Super Bowl LII.
The most likely scenario remains that Manning, at age 37, will be the Giants starter in 2018. And if he's not, it's much more likely that he'd be replaced by Davis Webb, a quarterback from the 2018 draft, or a veteran who can be a short-term stop-gap until Webb or the rookie is ready.
The Keenum rumor is an interesting one, but it's not based in reality. And here's why:
- Keenum is a career backup on his third team in five seasons who only has his job because of injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford. OK, that's sort of how it started for Kurt Warner too back in 1999, but no one is betting on Keenum becoming a Hall of Fame quarterback. Before this year, he had 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 26 career games (24 starts). That may be who he really is.
- Keenum won't be cheap. Sure, if he were a one-year, stop-gap player like Josh McCown was supposed to be for the Jets, he might make financial sense. But Keenum's range is much more likely to be in line with the three-year, $45 million contract the Bears gave Mike Glennon last offseason (with $18.5 million guaranteed). Yes, that was a ridiculous deal. But Keenum is more accomplished and that surely will be what his agent uses as a baseline. That makes no sense for a Giants team looking to transition to a younger quarterback.
- If the Giants replace Manning, it's going to be with an eye on the future -- and their future franchise quarterback. They're not going to replace him with a journeyman who might just be a younger version of McCown. They'll replace him with Webb, who'll be 23 next week, or with Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold -- the likely top two picks in the draft who will both soon be 21.
- Keenum isn't young. He'll be 30 in February. Sure that's young for a quarterback, and he might be entering his prime. But it's not an age where anyone thinks his ceiling is going to be much higher than where he's at now. And, by the way, he's had a terrific season (67.6 completion percentage, 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns, 7 interceptions in 15 games), but he's not exactly an all-pro.
- Manning still means a lot to the Giants and they seem to want him back. Yes, new GM Dave Gettleman said he needs to watch film before he makes a decision, but he and co-owner John Mara have still indicated they expect Manning to be their quarterback in 2018. And if they are looking to transition to a new quarterback eventually, having him learn from Manning is their ideal.
- Getting rid of Manning would be expensive. Just cutting him would clear about $16 million in cap space, but he'd still count for $6.2 million in "dead money" each of the next two years. And trading him would actually leave them with about $12 million "dead money" this year alone. The Giants are in OK cap shape, but that's still a big hit for a player playing somewhere else.
Could it happen anyway? Sure. If Shurmur really wants Keenum at his side -- and there are only rumors about that to this point -- he could insist. Mara could sign off on moving Manning rather than saddle him with a second-straight head coach who clearly doesn't want him. And Keenum's price could always come down so he could be an affordable, one- or two-year solution until Webb or Rosen or Darnold are ready.
But those are a lot of things that would have to happen and most of them are unlikely. The most likely scenario remains Manning returning to the Giants for the 2018 season. And even if he doesn't, his replacement isn't likely to be Keenum. It would almost certainly be someone else.