He had to work for it, and he did, so that’s what we’re going to focus on here.
Because former Red Lion High School quarterback Chad Kelly is making something of his opportunity. His notable leap up the Broncos’ depth chart, from third string to second string, wasn’t handed to him, you know, not in any way.
If anything, the deck in Denver was stacked against Kelly, in part because he did some dumb things in college and in high school in York County, in part because there was a first-rounder ahead of him on the depth chart.
Monday after a spirited, sweaty-hot training camp practice at UCHealth Training Center, Broncos coach Vance Joseph made it official: “He played well in the scrimmage and he played well Saturday night, so he deserves a chance to be the ‘2’ right now.”
How ‘bout that? Now here’s your quarterback depth chart:
QB1: Case Keenum
QB2: Chad Kelly
QBwhoshouldbefreedtoroamelsewhere: Paxton Lynch.
Soak it in: the Broncos’ first pick of the 2016 draft has been leapfrogged by the final pick of the entire 2017 draft.
Chad "Swag" Kelly is no longer “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Sour side of sweet story: Now the sour side of a sweet story: the Broncos shouldn’t go into the regular season with Kelly as the backup. They shouldn’t hinge their fortunes on a 24-year-old who last played in a real game 650 days ago, by Kelly’s own count. They should find a veteran quarterback as insurance in the unfortunate but quite likely possibility that Keenum gets hit the wrong way.
Twenty NFL teams used a backup quarterback last season. Maybe I should get Kelly to count, but that looks like more than half. Chances are, it’ll happen. And as fearless and fiery as Kelly looked on Saturday night against the third-stringers in Vikings uniforms, that’s a recipe for 5-11 Part II, if something were to happen to Keenum, football gods forbid.
But that’s not the point of this exercise, and neither is piling on Paxton. The point is “Swag.”
Saying, doing all the right things: He’s said all the right things, he’s done most of the right things, and he’s with a franchise in need. Monday after hearing the big news and introducing himself to the second-team offense, Kelly recited lines straight from the Peyton Manning handbook. He applauded his teammates. He detailed his misses, not his makes. He emphasized exactly how long it had been since he played in a football game, which was very C.J. Anderson of him. The former Broncos tailback could rattle off the name of every running back taken in the 2013 draft, and “Anderson” wasn’t one. Worked out pretty well for C.J. Dude’s crazy rich now.
“We all have to get better — me included,” Kelly said Monday. “Everybody.”
There’s a lot of negative energy around the Broncos these days. Not so much in the building, but on the street, as George Karl would say.
What is sometimes lost in the quarterback shuffles, depth-chart analyses, national anthem protests, controversial helmet-tackling rules and myriad whining and complaining about the NFL is the opportunity that still and always lies ahead. Joseph’s opportunity is to win his way out of the 5-11 hole he dug. Keenum’s opportunity is to show his venture into the NFC championship game wasn’t a one-off fluke. Just on Monday another opportunity was given, and we’ll see in time what Kelly can do with it.
Golden opportunity: Opportunities come in all forms, and Kelly, too, now has been granted a golden one of his own.
When the 10 members of Denver’s 2018 draft class first arrived at the UCHealth Training Center — the day after each was drafted, in April — one face was inevitably there to greet them. Chad Kelly’s. He was at the facility, working out and studying film, when he was supposed to be there and when he wasn’t expected to be there. He was just always there.
And Kelly would congratulate the rookies, right before he’d tell them that now it’s time to go to bleeping-bleep-bleep work. Good on him.
Now get back to bleeping-bleep-bleep work, "Swag."
His opportunity has been granted.
(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)