Late Monday night, as most Hoyas were drifting off to sleep with visions of Antonio Brown dancing in their heads, West Coasters indulged in a second installment of Week 1 Monday Night Football. At 10:20 p.m. EST, the San Francisco 49ers took on the new L.A. Rams in a game Micah Peters of The Ringer deemed “one of the worst Monday Night Football games ever.”
A weak offensive line, an overworked defense and routes that could have been run better by play-by-play commentator Kevin Harlan — who demonstrated his own football capabilities by halting the game when he ran an impressive go-route across the field at the beginning of the fourth quarter — all contributed to the scoreless outing for the Rams.
But the Tuesday morning headlines, which blamed the loss on Case Keenum, all revolved around Head Coach Jeff Fisher’s hesitant announcement that he will not start 2016 first overall draft pick Jared Goff this upcoming weekend.
After the game, Fisher revealed to NFL.com that even he considered benching Keenum during the game, but said he “just wanted Case to finish it.”
It is in this environment of indecision and skepticism that Case Keenum serves as a place holder for Jared Goff, and has subsequently been plunged into a situation which almost guarantees Keenum’s imminent failure.
Since arriving in Los Angeles this summer, Goff has become a famous young prospect in Los Angeles sports. During OTAs at the end of June, all anyone asked Fisher was whether or not Goff was “adjusting,” “looking good,” or “getting enough reps.” In other words: Why was Fisher keeping up the charade of leaving quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Keenum on the depth charts, and when was Fisher going to officially announce that Goff would be the starter?
Even though Keenum triumphed over Goff in preseason play, Los Angeles was shocked that Goff didn’t get the start. To make matters worse, the explanation that Goff “just isn’t ready” hardly gave Keenum confidence that he alone had won the start — and this is where Keenum’s problem lies.
In that environment, it is almost impossible for Keenum to flourish. It is not just that Keenum has Goff breathing down his neck, ready to suit up the second Fisher has seen enough; it is that Keenum’s job is undefined. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s replacement, Jimmy Garoppolo, dominated on Sunday — he didn’t have tight end Rob Gronkowski and he was dealing with the pressure of putting the Pats in a good position, as well as the expectation that he couldn’t possibly fill Brady’s shoes.
But Garoppolo knows what his job is. He knows he won’t be the starting quarterback for the Patriots. But he also knows that he is the starting quarterback, undoubtedly, for four weeks. And he has taken that stability and ran with it — for four weeks, Garoppolo is the leader of the Patriots’ offense.
Keenum does not have the luxury of stability. The Rams’ offense is not his offense. The new run-oriented game was created with more than one quarterback in mind, and Keenum is unsure of what his role in that offense is.
Last season, Keenum stepped up and went 3-2 for the Rams at the end of the season when he understood it was his turn to be the starting quarterback.
But now, Keenum is floundering.
Fisher is allowing him to start Week 2 because Goff, according to Fisher, still isn’t ready. Keenum’s Week 2 start is a product of Goff’s supposed ineptness, not Keenum’s dominance. In fact, if Fisher was truly putting the starting position up for grabs, Keenum would have been benched for Sean Mannion, and depending on that outcome, Goff would have had the chance to start this weekend.
We all want to believe that it is possible to overcome the odds, to defy expectations — that an underdog like Keenum, who has proven himself before, can win the job. But Fisher’s comments, the media frenzy, constant teammate commentary on Goff’s improvement and now a brutal Week 1 start all contribute to an environment in which absolutely no one sees Keenum as the long-term starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams.
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