Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate Denver Broncos Community!

Case Keenum's leadership shined through in an big way this offseason

Zac Stevens Avatar
July 24, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Case Keenum and leadership go together like milk and cookies, bacon and eggs, coffee and cream and peanut butter and jelly.

Throughout Keenum’s career, there have been questions about the type of quarterback he could be, but none of those doubts were about his top-level leadership qualities and abilities.

Four months into his new job with the Denver Broncos and it’s clear the thin air of the Mile High City hasn’t changed him one bit.

“It’s only been four hours,” Von Miller joked when asked about his first impression of Keenum on the team’s first day of the offseason program way back in April. “He’s a great leader. You can just tell by being around guys and by having conversations with guys. In 30 seconds, you can kind of tell what he’s going to bring. He’s going to be a great quarterback for us. He’s going to be a great leader.”

This praise didn’t slow down after the first day, or first four hours, either.

There were more times when players and coaches talked about Keenum’s leadership than there were practices during the offseason. Literally.

“He’s collected, he gets in that huddle, and he demands,” Garett Bolles said firmly. “But he showed us in the offseason, before we even started OTAs. He’s bringing us along, we’re doing outings together — hockey games and all those things. He’s taking control. He does a great job bringing the other wives together, which I think is a big thing.”

On the field, off the field and even away from the facility, the seven-year vet is taking charge, not letting the fact that he was a backup just one year ago get in his way.

“He’s got that leadership mentality,” Devontae Booker said. “It’s just that leader role—it feels more demanding. That’s his huddle, and whatever he wants us to do we’ll get it right.”

And Keenum did just that on multiple occasions.

“I remember today — just now — the offense was kind of jogging, but he was like, ‘Huddle up!’” Chris Harris Jr. said about one of Denver’s late-May OTA practices. “He takes command out there. he gets them right and lets them know, ‘I’ve got the play here.’ He’s a leader out there on the field.”

But it’s not just all about the yelling, demanding parts of being a leader at quarterback, either.

Rookie receiver Courtland Sutton recalled many times when the veteran quarterback would come up to him after a play in practice and take an active role in coaching him.

Instead of yelling at him for being a rookie or letting him figure it out later, Keenum took the young receiver under his wing so the gun-slinger and pass catcher could get on the same page.

“The way that he carries himself, how he’s in the building, how he works with these guys and how he interacts with these guys, it’s good to see, especially for me,” Paxton Lynch said about learning under his new mentor. “I didn’t really have an opportunity to be around somebody for a long time that had been in the league for a while.”

Not only has Case been in the league a while, he’s seen it all — from being named the opening day starting quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams to fighting to make an NFL roster as an undrafted rookie free agent.

To be frank, Keenum’s leadership played a huge role in the Broncos ponying up $36 million — and $25 million guaranteed — for a quarterback that’s never started 16 games in a season.

Sure, a 22-7 touchdown to interception ratio — like he had last season with the Minnesota Vikings — won’t hurt, but John Elway and Vance Joseph knew exactly what type of leader Keenum was when they signed him.

In the few days immediately following the signing, Elway and Joseph collectively mentioned Case’s leadership abilities seven times, with the general manager adding, “His leadership and competitiveness are what you look for in a quarterback.”

“He’s the best fit for us, and with his leadership qualities, if you look at Case’s history and what he’s done, he’s come through a lot being undrafted, but he’s battled his way through everything,” Elway said, again touching on this specific quality unprompted. “Everything we thought that Case had — not only what he can do on the field but what he can do off the field as far as leadership qualities, the grit that he has, the way that he plays the game and the way that he competes — he was the perfect fit for us.”

With their initial expectations sky-high for Keenum’s leadership abilities, none of the recent developments are a surprise to the Broncos’ brass.

But to the players, this type of leadership is something they haven’t seen since Peyton Manning hung ‘em up.

“Our offense has a leader now that’s going to be out there,” Derek Wolfe said with a sigh of relief. “Not that Trevor [Siemian] wasn’t a good leader. But we’ve got somebody who’s experienced in leading a football team. And you saw what kind of work he did in Minnesota.”

It’s not that the lack of leadership from the quarterback position should fall entirely on Siemian’s shoulders. As Shelby Harris put it, “When you have a QB battle, it’s like, ‘Who takes the reigns?’ Who’s the one who steps up and is the leader?’ But this year with Case, you have a leader.”

Over the last two seasons, through a combination of Siemian, Lynch and Brock Osweiler, the offense has turned to other positions to try and find an identity. That won’t be the case under Case’s watch.

“Case is our leader, our head man and the voice of the offense,” Jake Butt said leaving no room for misinterpretations. “He’s doing a great job commanding us, getting everybody lined up, making the right reads and making the good throws.”

But for Case, none of this is different. None of it is forced. None of it is artificial.

“As far as the leadership goes, I’m going to continue to be me, that’s all I know how to do,” he stated when asked about all of the glowing comments made by his fellow teammates and coaches. “That’s my main focus.”

While all of the talk, stories, and words above are meaningful and important, the comments made by the following two players during the offseason could very well, and likely do, carry the most weight.

Not only are Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas two of the team’s best players, they’re both veterans that many view as leaders and are examples for many younger players, specifically on the offensive side of the ball.

When asked what his first impression was of Case, the first thing out of Sanders’ mouth, unsurprisingly, was, “He’s a leader.”

“He’s confident in himself. He’s one of those guys that when he steps into the huddle, he’s that leader. You don’t have to second guess what his thought process is.”

One of the players that took a more significant leadership role over the past two seasons was Thomas, and fittingly so as he’s the longest-tenured Bronco. But now with a quarterback that “takes control of everything,” as Thomas put it, he no longer needs to burned that weight.

“He takes control of the huddle. I know that I was in the huddle one day and I said, ‘Wait, wait, wait. We’re missing…’ and he said, ‘I got this.’ and I said, ‘OK.’ So, it’s stuff like that,” Thomas said, explaining a specific example of how Keenum’s leadership positively impacts the team on the field. “It’s good to have him around.”

Sanders had a story of his own about his new quarterback, this time about his leadership off the field.

“He’s a great leader. Every day — the majority of the days — he’ll come in and ask me and D.T. to go and watch practices, and we’ll sit in the back room and watch film and go over what he’s thinking and what we’re thinking,” Sanders elaborated.

“I’ve been a part of two Super Bowl teams, and that’s what it takes. That extra work that’s not mandatory, where guys are in there working out or working on their mental game. That right there, when it’s fourth quarter or when it’s fourth-and-5 or third-and-8. That’s the stuff that gets you over the hill.”

Sanders two Super Bowl appearances were alongside Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger — two future Hall of Famers.

The Broncos don’t need Keenum to be a Hall of Fame-level quarterback on the field, but they could sure use that level of leadership from a position they’ve so desperately missed it from the past two seasons.

“The guys have already rallied around him,” Justin Simmons said without a doubt in his mind. “I know he talks about how he wanted to come in and earn that leadership spot. I’m not speaking for him or for anyone on the offensive side, but I feel like he is definitely earning it, if not has earned it.”

If it wasn’t already clear back in April and May, it’s certainly crystal clear now by nearly the entire organizations own admission: This is Case Keenum’s football team.

“You’ve got a guy that’s walking up to you that’s saying ‘Let’s throw extra passes after practice.’ I’m a firm believer that when you put in the work — extra work, not just the work the coaches try to hand you — then that’s how you become successful,” Sanders said with a burning passion.

“It’s like when Peyton rented out Duke University, and we all went out there and threw. It’s like during training camp when everybody’s exhausted after practice, everybody wants to go in, Peyton’s still out there throwing that extra five to ten balls that the rest of the NFL is probably not doing. That’s what we’re doing, and that’s the type of quarterback Case is. It’s going to end up paying off for us.”


Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?