Case Keenum shows teams can’t evaluate quarterbacks, and other Week 11 thoughts

Michael David Smith
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

If you want to know how clueless all of us — and I mean everyone who watches the NFL and everyone who works in the NFL — is about evaluating quarterbacks, just take a look at the contracts these four free agent quarterbacks signed this year:

Mike Glennon got a contract that pays him $18 million this year with the Bears.

Jay Cutler got a contract that pays him $10 million this year with the Dolphins.

Brian Hoyer got a contract that pays him $7 million this year with the 49ers.

Case Keenum got a contract that pays him $2 million this year with the Vikings.

How has that worked out? Glennon was awful and got benched after four games. Cutler was awful and may have lost his starting job yesterday. Hoyer was awful and got benched, and then cut.

And Keenum? The guy whose contract was dwarfed by those other free agent quarterbacks? He’s an MVP candidate. Yesterday Keenum had 280 passing yards, a touchdown and no turnovers, and the Vikings whipped the previously hot Rams to improve to 8-2 and maintain a two-game lead in the NFC North. Keenum wouldn’t be my first choice for league MVP, but he absolutely deserves some consideration, having played very well this season after being thrown in following a Week One injury to Sam Bradford. If Keenum plays well and the Vikings keep winning, and maybe if Carson Wentz and Tom Brady have some bad games down the stretch, Keenum really has a chance to be named league MVP.

Think about that: A guy who was available in free agency to anyone who wanted him, who signed for one-ninth of what Mike Glennon got from the Bears, could be the league MVP.

How does that happen? I think it happens because NFL teams just aren’t very good at evaluating quarterbacks. The Bears saw Glennon and Keenum available and thought Glennon was worth nine times as much money as Keenum. The 49ers paid Hoyer good money and he played so badly he’s not even on the 49ers anymore. The Dolphins thought Jay Cutler would be their savior after Ryan Tannehill got hurt, and Cutler isn’t even as good as the guy they already had, Matt Moore.

And it’s not just this year’s free agents: Last year the Texans gave Brock Osweiler a huge contract, and he was so bad that this year the Texans gave the Browns a second-round draft pick just to take Osweiler’s contract off their hands. Last year the Broncos traded up in the first round to draft Paxton Lynch, and he can’t even beat out Osweiler, who’s now back in Denver. And Lynch isn’t even the worst recent first-round quarterback: At least he’s still in the league, which is more than we can say for Johnny Manziel. But NFL teams waited until the fourth round to draft Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins.

Teams can’t even evaluate the quarterbacks on their own teams, the guys they see at practice every single day: Bills Sean McDermott actually thought Nathan Peterman was a better quarterback than Tyrod Taylor, a laughably bad decision that McDermott went back on yesterday after Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half. And speaking of obviously wrong decisions that changed after one half, don’t forget that Texans coach Bill O’Brien started Tom Savage over Deshaun Watson before benching Savage at halftime of Week One.

Maybe some day some team will devise the perfect scouting method, or the perfect statistical analysis, to identify the best quarterbacks in a draft or free agent class. But for now, teams stink at evaluating quarterbacks.

Here are my other thoughts from Week One:

Jay Gruden calling a fake punt from his own 16-yard line was my favorite call of the year. Yes, Washington ended up losing to New Orleans. But I just loved that aggressive play call from Gruden, who wasn’t afraid to try a high-risk, high-reward move. Statistical analysis has repeatedly shown that coaches should be more aggressive on fourth downs. Gruden was, and he’s to be commended for it.

A record-breaking field goal is coming to Mexico City. The NFL announced yesterday that it will play one game per year in Mexico City through at least 2021. I’m calling it now, in one of those Mexico City games we’ll see the first 65-yard field goal in NFL history. The current record is 64 yards, set by Matt Prater in Denver. Yesterday in Mexico City, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski made one from 62 yards that easily would have been good from 65 or longer. The altitude of Mexico City (more than 7,000 feet above sea level, significantly higher than Denver) makes kicked footballs travel farther, and it’s only a matter of time before we see an NFL record south of the border.

The Packers were shut out at Lambeau Field for the first time in 11 years. Brett Hundley threw three interceptions in yesterday’s 23-0 loss to the Ravens, and he just doesn’t look ready to be an NFL quarterback. He holds onto the ball way too long, including getting sacked twice on fourth downs. Packers coach Mike McCarthy and his staff have not done a good job of getting Hundley ready to play.

The Jaguars have their first four-game winning streak in a decade. Yesterday’s win over the Browns was four in a row for Jacksonville, something that hasn’t happened since 2007. Are we all ready for the Jaguars to be a playoff team? Because at 7-3 in the weak AFC, the Jaguars are virtually certain to be playing in January. Blake Bortles is going to be a playoff quarterback.

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