If you asked anyone associated with the Washington Redskins -- coaches, fans or otherwise -- at the start of the season who would be the starting quarterback at the end of the year, there would be a good chance that many of them would say Case Keenum.
At least that was the plan. The coaching staff wanted to let Dwayne Haskins Jr. use his rookie season as an opportunity to sit and learn from veterans like Keenum and Colt McCoy, who have a combined 17 years of experience as NFL quarterbacks.
But a 1-7 start, combined with Keenum being placed in the league's concussion protocol against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 24, forced Haskins onto the field sooner than anticipated. He made his first-career start against the Buffalo Bills and kept the job until he suffered a high ankle sprain against the New York Giants in Week 16.
So now Keenum is back in the starting role in the season finale (he even gets to go back to his home state of Texas) against the Cowboys. The road to get to this point has been drastically different than he and others predicted, though, and now Keenum just wants to go out and play football.
"You control what you can control," Keenum said on Thursday. "You push through all the other noise that circles around, and when it comes down to it you play football. You have fun, you love the guys in this locker room and you learn from it."
Keenum doesn't know if "strange" or "weird" are good descriptions of this past season, but there is no denying it has been interesting. Keenum went from winning the starting job in training camp to getting benched for Haskins in the second quarter of the Week 4 matchup against the New York Giants.
Then he had to earn the starting job again in the days leading up to the Patriots game. McCoy was named the starter against the Patriots only to have it given back to Keenum the following week. He kept the job for two more weeks until he suffered a concussion against the Vikings and was taken out at halftime.
That can be frustrating, but Keenum also knows that is how the NFL works. The only thing he knows to do in those situations is to "play football, man."
"I mean, there are things that they didn't tell you as a kid growing up you'd have to deal with, but you play football," Keenum said. "We're playing a kids game, we're just big kids playing a little kids game. You just have to remember that it is a game and go out and play and have fun."
Once Keenum was taken out against the Vikings, the Haskins era had officially begun, as he was named the starter for the rest of the year during the team's bye week. Haskins progressively got better with each game; in the first half of the second meeting against the Giants, he completed his first 10 throws and had two touchdowns.
But Haskins was injured on the first play of the second half, putting Keenum back under center. He didn't want to see Haskins go down, especially when he was playing so well. But at the same time, it was an opportunity for Keenum to get back on the field for at least one more time this year.
"It was really good to get back out there and get in the mix with those guys," Keenum said after the Giants game. "I hated seeing Dwayne go down like that ... but yeah, it was a blast to get out there."
Keenum entered the game with the Redskins down 28-14 and led the offense on a wild comeback over the course of the next two quarters. He finished the game completing 16 of 22 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown to Steven Sims. He even scored the game-tying touchdown on a one-yard diving rush into the end zone.
Keenum has been a backup before; it has happened a handful of times throughout his career. Still, there is the constant reality that he could come in at any time, so there are a lot of mental reps that go into being prepared for if that situation arises.
But Keenum also said there are some nice things about coming in relief for a starter. He can play with no inhibitions and nothing to lose.
"You just go out there and sling it," Keenum said. "That's my motto, and that's the way I play the game."
With the team waiting on a full report regarding Haskins' ankle, it was unclear in the immediate aftermath of the Giants game who would be the starter against the Cowboys. The team didn't wait too long to resolve that issue, though, as interim head coach Bill Callahan announced the following day that Haskins would not play in Week 17.
That meant that Keenum would be the starter for the final game, and that means a lot to him. Besides the fact that he gets to play in Texas, Keenum gets another start in an NFL game, which he knows is another special opportunity.
"That's the name of this league," Keenum said. "That's how it goes every time. You're trying to extend your career and trying to put your resume on tape. That's every time you step on the field: it's a video resume. That's why I play hard every snap."
Keenum has had a unique NFL career. It's the subject of his book "Playing For More" that was published in 2018.
This season is no different from his previous six. There are always things players can take away from each season, and with all that Keenum has experienced in the past three months, this season has plenty to offer.
"There are so many things [that] I couldn't list them off right now," Keenum said. "I'd have to write another book."