ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Case Keenum is off to a rocky start in the shadows of John Elway, Peyton Manning and the Rocky Mountains, which he and his wife, Kimberly, visited during the Broncos’ much-needed bye week.
“It’s pretty. I’ve been looking at them for the last six months,” Keenum said. “So, it was fun to go up there and enjoy that. It was good to get away.”
Not that he was scrambling from the pressure and high expectations of playing in quarterback-crazed Denver, the magnitude of which he insists doesn’t faze him.
“Yeah, there’s a lot to it, playing quarterback here, and I enjoy it, I love it, I love the intensity of it. I love the tradition, the history,” Keenum told The Associated Press on his way to the weight room after practice Wednesday.
As if on cue, Keenum triggered an automatic door leading from the facility to the parking lot that separates the weight room from the rest of the team’s headquarters.
He pointed to the larger-than-life photos of Broncos greats that decorate the walls and halls of the UC Health Center.
“I mean, you walk in and the pictures are right there of who’s played here and what they’ve done,” Keenum said. “So, I don’t take it lightly. I love my job. I love what I do. Personally, I feel like I’ve got the best job in the world.”
Even though it comes with such little patience from the boo-birds at the stadium and the longtime listeners/first-time callers smarting over the Broncos’ 3-6 start, Keenum’s 10 interceptions and two dozen sacks in his Denver debut.
Keenum knew Denver was different from his other NFL stops when he signed with the Broncos for two years and $36 million after leading the Vikings to the NFC championship game.
“I love it. And I understand that there’s pressure and expectations that come with it,” Keenum said. “I’ve had those pressures and those expectations on myself my whole career, my whole life. Every time I step on the field I want to win. I expect to win and I expect to do well.
“So, that’s me, that’s who I am and I think that’s why I’m built to play quarterback here.”
His new workplace, where three Lombardi Trophies loom large in the lobby, isn’t anything like Keenum’s stops in Houston, where he also played college ball; St. Louis, where they were about to lose a franchise; L.A., where those Rams weren’t yet these Rams; and Minnesota, where he subbed for Sam Bradford.
Here, the fans let their beloved Broncos hear about it the first time a pass is off target.
“That’s just the fan base here, they expect good things, they expect explosive plays, they expect offense,” Keenum said. “And I love that they care, I really do. I’d rather them be that way than nobody shows up. I’d rather play in front of all those fans that are into the game than just some other fans — not to mention any other fans out there — that come for the tailgate and the party. They want football and I appreciate that.”
But for three plays, the Broncos could be 6-3 instead of 3-6 heading into their game against the Chargers (7-2) this weekend.
— Keenum missed a wide-open Demaryius Thomas for the game-winning TD in the final minute of a 27-23 loss to Kansas City that helped grow the legend of Patrick Mahomes.
— Emmanuel Sanders’ taunting flag after an apparent touchdown cost Denver four points in a 23-20 loss to the Rams.
— Brandon McManus pushed a 51-yard field goal wide right as time expired in a 19-17 loss to the Texans.
With the Broncos flirting with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72, fans are left wondering whether Keenum is the answer at quarterback or if there was anything to general manager John Elway going to watch Oregon QB Justin Herbert last month.
They’ve seen a succession of quarterbacks flame out in Denver following Manning’s retirement a month after the Broncos’ Super Bowl parade 33 months ago:
— Mark Sanchez was cut in camp.
— Trevor Siemian kept getting hurt and eventually was traded.
— Brock Osweiler was brought back in 2017 but not re-signed in 2018.
— Paxton Lynch, a first-round bust.
— Chad Kelly, a backup who got arrested.
If the Broncos had beaten the Chiefs (9-1), Rams (9-1) and Texans (6-3), maybe the buzz is all about a long-term extension for Keenum instead of whether he’s the right quarterback to lead the Broncos’ revival.
“That’s not in my mind,” Keenum said. “During the season I’m taking it one game at a time. During the offseason, I’ll talk about contracts and all that stuff.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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