Throughout the lead up to the 2016 season and through its first seven games, quarterback Case Keenum was constantly asked questions about Jared Goff.
Keenum was the Rams' starter, of course — he had been since late in the 2015 season. But once Los Angeles traded up to draft Goff with the No. 1 overall pick, the end game became quite clear: Sooner or later, Goff would take over for Keenum as the Rams' QB-1.
Nearly one year to the day after Goff made his first start, the two quarterbacks will square off as the signal-callers for a pair of 7-2 teams when the Rams play the Vikings on Sunday.
"I think you predicted that, didn't you? You knew how it was going to be, right?" Keenum joked on a conference call with L.A. media on Wednesday. "No, it's a funny game and it's a crazy business, but that's what makes this so cool, is that this is two really good football teams that are going against each other and great defenses and some offenses that have done well. It's a fun story."
Keenum has started seven games for the Vikings this season, completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 1,914 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He started his first game this season in Week 2, which was a 26-9 loss to Pittsburgh. But since then, Keenum has been solid, culminating in a 304-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Vikings' 38-30 victory over Washington last week.
"He's played well," Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer said. "I don't know about exceeding or not exceeding [expectations], but he's played well. For the most part, he's taken care of the football, he's made the right decisions. He's come in and helped us win ball games."
The quarterback credited Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Stefanski for implementing a scheme that's conducive to success.
"It's kind of a mix of everything," Keenum said. "We have what we do well, but we can pick and pull and draw from a lot of different things and do a lot of different things and mix it up. Mix up what we're doing — if we're under center or in a shotgun or if we're tempo or in the huddle, if we're big personnel or small personnel, a lot of different things and I think that's something that I'm good at."
Keenum was also notable during last season for being a good teammate. Goff credited Keenum many times during 2016 for his professionalism. The Cal product said Wednesday he texted with the other day and that both QBs are excited for the matchup.
"Get a chance to see him again, just get a chance to say hi to him and see how he's doing," Goff said. "He's been doing so well this year. As a guy, there's not a guy that you could be more happy for. Really, for everything he's gone through, throughout his whole career, to get to this point of Minnesota playing well, winning and doing everything he's been doing there. I couldn't be happier for the guy and he deserves it all."
And Keenum seemed just as happy for Goff and his success so far in 2017.
"I'm pumped for him. I'm actually excited that he's got things rolling like he does," Keenum said. "But yeah, you knew he was talented when he showed up in the building and to see him come into his own and doing what he's done, it's been really cool to watch. Just looking at the stats every week, we see him pop up and we're like, 'Holy cow.' And we'll go watch him on film or something and check it out and see what they're doing. He's playing really good ball it's been fun to watch.
"We went through a lot last year and I think the fact that he kept standing back there and slinging it, man — he'd get up off the ground and keep stepping into throws and giving guys chances," Keenum added. "The mental toughness that you have to have to play at this position, it takes a lot of it. And he's got every bit he needs plus more. I think that's one of the big things is that he's as mentally tough as they come and he's got all the skills he needs. The mental game is just getting even better and better."
Goff said he picked up plenty from his season with Keenum, but perhaps nothing more so than the Houston product's work ethic.
"I think the No. 1 thing that he kind of imparted — he wasn't super highly touted coming out of college, and he made his career by working hard. That hard work is something I tried to grasp as much as I could and pick up little pieces here and there," Goff said. "So, I think that could be one thing that I learned him for sure is his work ethic, everything he's gotten in this league I think he's earned and fully deserves."
Keenum has also clearly improved this season, which has helped get the Vikings to where they are now. But he downplayed the notion that what he's doing now is particularly new or different.
"I'm the same guy I've always been, but I feel like I've gotten better," Keenum said. "I've worked at my craft my whole life, especially my six years now in the NFL. I didn't come into the NFL to be on the practice squad or be a backup. I came in to play and I worked on playing and I worked on being the best quarterback I could be. I worked on getting the ball to where it needed to be.
"That's decision making, that mechanics, that's a lot of different things and I've worked on that my whole career," Keenum continued. "I feel like I've gotten better each year. Every experience I've been in has prepared me for the next one and I've learned from it, I've grown from it."