There are plenty of doubters eager for the chance to jump on Case Keenum. There's a local media contingent that would love to turn him into Houston's own version of a mini Tim Tebow.
It's almost like they're personally offended by the notion — no, the truth — that the University of Houston icon has emerged as more than a token novelty in the NFL. They don't want to acknowledge he is pushing T.J. Yates for the Houston Texans No. 2 quarterback job — and they go as far as insisting Texans coach Gary Kubiak can't really be serious with such talk.
As if Kubiak — as committed a quarterback teacher as there is in football — would fool around with such matters. Still Kubiak must be off, the Keenum doubters insist. It doesn't matter what the coach says, it doesn't matter what vaunted NFL personnel guru Gil Brandt (who had Keenum rated as one of the Top 100 players in the entire 2012 NFL Draft at one point) thinks, it doesn't matter how many on-the-money strikes Keenum unleashes in OTAs (only one interception through nine practices) . . . it just can't be true.
He didn't play in anything close to a real NFL offense in college. There is no way his arm is strong enough. He just can't be for real.
Keenum just keeps showing up and making the right throws. It's what he does.
Nick Wright — the usually entertaining 610 AM morning host — is probably the loudest, most resolute critic of Keenum. Any time anyone brings up the quarterback doing well on Wright's show, the host immediately sets about trying to shoot it down. You can almost hear his eye rolls over the radio.
Only Keenum's teammates — the ones catching his passes, the ones in the meetings rooms with him — see a different reality. They see the truth.
"Case has been awesome," third-year receiver Lestar Jean tells CultureMap. "I could see it from early this spring when we were working out on our own.
"He puts the ball right there. He puts it where you can do something with it."
Or how about this from second-year wideout Keshawn Martin?
"Case can play," Martin says. "He's going to make some noise in this league."
You don't hear that type of thing from Tim Tebow's teammates. NFL players don't pump up a true fluke just because he shares the same locker room. Instead, you get off-the-record sniping on how "terrible" he is. Instead, you get stories painting him as something of an airheaded fool who has trouble even remembering the plays.
That doesn't happen with Case Keenum. He's prepared and quietly driven to do the same thing in the NFL he did at the University of Houston. Heck, the same thing he did in high school in Abilene.
Keenum's never been gifted a starting job or hailed as the second coming from the word go. He's always been forced to prove himself.
"Case has been awesome. I could see it from early this spring when we were working out on our own."
The doubters may not want to believe it, but now he's doing it again on the NFL level. It's a long way from OTAs to the regular season. And sure, there is a big difference between making throws on the practice fields where Reliant Stadium only looms in the background like a giant across-the-street shadow and completing them in the stadium.
But Keenum is already putting himself in position.
If the much-maligned and chronically underrated Matt Schaub gets hurt this season (no great long shot), don't be shocked if the Texans' Super visions rest on Keenum, the supposed joke. By the end of this season, I think Keenum will be starting for the Texans. Even if that doesn't happen — and if you're a Texans fan you have to hope it doesn't in 2013, the next several seasons still hinge on Schaub's proven ability to be brilliant — Case Keenum will start games in the NFL at some point.
As much as it kills the Nick Wrights of the world.
"He’s playing really well," Kubiak says of Keenum. "You all see it. You all come out and watch practice. He’s got a ton of confidence. He knows exactly what’s going on this year, so that’s not going to be the problem."
Keenum just keeps showing up and making the right throws. It's what he does. He'll never be a huge distraction. He's probably the most interviewed athlete in University of Houston history (Hakeem Olajuwon played in a different media time and didn't face nearly the volume of requests Keenum did during his Cougar days) and it's hard to remember him ever saying anything controversial.
I've talked to Keenum several times about his NFL doubters and he largely keeps to his mantra of "trying to prove the people who believed in me right" rather than railing against any slights.
Some things haven't changed. Case Keenum is still one of the most confident, calm quarterbacks in the room. Any room. Everyone will see it soon.
Eventually, they always do.