Culture / Sporting Life

Case Keenum Makes His Houston Media Haters Look Absolutely Ridiculous

With UH Icon in Reach of a $15 Million a Year Contract, the Furious Backpedaling Has Begun

BY // 11.26.17

By the time Troy Aikman declares that Case Keenum’s “shown he can certainly play at a high level” on national TV in the middle of America’s Thanksgiving, the furious backpedaling is inevitable. In truth, it started the week before.

Keenum’s harsh critics in the Houston media — and the most rabid and dismissive Keenum destroyers always could be found among the reporters, columnists and sports talk radio hosts of his second hometown — have suddenly rediscovered a quarterback they downgraded and doubted for years.

There is Houston Chronicle NFL guru John McClain arguing on 610 AM that the Houston Texans should try to sign Keenum as Deshaun Watson’s backup after this season. There is Chronicle columnist Brian T. Smith, who had absolutely no use for Keenum when the University of Houston icon was actually playing in Houston, suddenly sending out pro Keenum tweets on the regular.

610 AM even has one very minor voice who the station claims always believed in Keenum, which is like the Kremlin coming out and declaring they really supported Hillary Clinton all along.

Nick Wright, the ringmaster of 610 AM’s anti-UH hate, has moved onto FS1 and with Keenum 7-2 as Super Bowl contender Minnesota’s starter, he largely just avoids any mention of the quarterback. At least on Twitter. (Almost nobody knows what Wright actually says on TV as FS1’s ratings attest.) This way Wright can avoid admitting how wrong he was. Again.

610 AM’s entertaining twentysomething host Paul Gallant — another member of the station’s Syracuse mafia, which like its former leader Wright almost always knocks anything the University of Houston — still largely dismisses Keenum, but he at least makes it funny. Gallant’s Keenum Truthers is a semi original play off the Lin Only Haters subset that is obsessed with criticizing NBA guard Jeremy Lin above all else.

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Besides, Gallant deserves some credit for not backpedaling more furiously than Deion Sanders ever did in the face of Keenum’s success like so many other Houston media voices. He’s not pretending that he ever believed in Keenum. Or avoiding the subject like some chronic no-pay gambler hiding from a bookie.

Of course, any objective observer could have seen this coming from Keenum. When Keenum completes eight of his first nine passes against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, he’s just showing what he always displayed at the University of Houston. He completed 69.4 percent of his passes as a Cougar. He’s always been an ultra accurate quarterback.

When Keenum slips out of a defensive end’s grasp, steps up into the pocket and delivers a bullet pass to Adam Thielen for a first down, he’s just doing what he’s always done. The same thing he did at UH while shattering the NCAA’s all-time passing records. The same thing he did in putting up 31 points against Bill Belichick’s defense for an absolutely dreadful Texans team in his first extended stint as an NFL starter back in 2013.

This is a guy who’s always made big plays throughout the entirety of his quarterbacking life.

The difference is Keenum finally has a good NFL team around him. He has weapons to utilize. And competent coaching. The same things he always had at UH.

“It’s the Case Keenum show,” Aikman beams at one point during the Thanksgiving broadcast.

Whenever anyone’s given Keenum a legitimate chance to take the stage, it always has been. Many of us saw this coming. True University of Houston fans certainly aren’t surprised by anything Keenum is doing in the NFL. The anti-Keenum rhetoric in the Houston media never reflected the true feelings in the city.

Emcee Spencer Tillman speaks with special guest Troy Aikman at the Touchdown for Teach event at the River Oaks Country Club Tuesday Nov. 15, 2016.(Dave Rossman photo)

Keenum is doing this now while playing with battered ribs and holding off Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings’ would-be franchise quarterback. Now, that he’s finally on an excellent NFL team, Keenum is not giving this job up. Not if there’s anything at all he can do about it.

“I want to be great,” Keenum says.

For the past month, he has been while playing hurt. It’s causing guys like McClain to advocate for the Texans signing him (Keenum is a free agent to be) to something along the lines of a three-year, $10-million deal to be a backup to Watson who can actually do something when called into action.

Suddenly, everyone appreciates the hometown guy.

Case Keenum’s $15 Million Future?

It is hard to imagine Keenum ever returning to the Texans if Bill O’Brien is still the head coach. Due to the same obsession with QB height that ending up cursing him with Brock Osweiler, O’Brien never gave Keenum a real chance even after the quarterback came out of deer blind to deliver two late-season wins and save the coach’s first season on Kirby Drive.

The difference is Keenum finally has a good NFL team around him. He has weapons to utilize. And competent coaching. The same things he always had at UH.

Besides McClain is still undervaluing Keenum as usual. An NFL salary cap analyst is already projecting that Keenum will command around $15 million per season on the open market, forecasting something around a three-year, $45 million contract for the 29-year-old Texas native.

Quarterbacks who complete 66.1 percent of their passes with a 14 to 5 touchdown to interception ratio do not sign bargain deals to be anyone’s backup. Keenum is hunting much bigger game here — and he’s wildly popular among Vikings fans. Even if his mustache looks like something straight out of Boogie Nights.

Keenum’s proven he should be someone’s starter next season — and in this quarterback-challenged league, he’ll likely get that chance and by far the biggest payday of an NFL career that started with an inexplicable NFL Draft snub.

“I have confidence in myself that I can be great,” Keenum says in the wake of his Thanksgiving feast.

Keenum always played to prove the people who believed in him right rather than the doubters wrong. That’s just how this ultra positive person is wired. He won’t be gloating as the doubters trip over themselves to pretend they were in his corner all along.

Case Keenum is making winning plays, changing games again, lifting another football team up. It’s what he’s always done when given a real chance. This is anything but surprising.

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