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DENVER — Seven days ago, Chad Kelly was preparing for his first football game in nearly 650 days.
The last time he had played in live game action, that annoying “From your roommate back in Boulder” song was just hitting No. 1 on the charts.
In his first game back, the Ole Miss legend slung it for 177 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-21 passing in just a quarter and a half of play, as 60-thousand strong chanted his name.
The narrative after the game was that Kelly had earned a shot to be the team’s backup. He had.
On Monday, just two days after his first game as a pro, Kelly was running with the second team in practice. On Tuesday, he was officially the backup on the team’s updated depth chart.
All in (less than) a day’s work.
In his first action against the second team in practice, though, Kelly struggled a bit as he caught up to the speed of players who will almost all be on the roster come Week 1. When the Bears came into town on Wednesday, the second-year QB didn’t exactly make his mark, and Thursday was much of the same.
The question around Denver was, “Does the team need to bring in a veteran backup?”
Then, on Saturday night, the lights came on again.
With six minutes and 19 seconds to go in the first half of Denver’s preseason game against the Bears, No. 6 took to the field. By the fire in his eyes, though, you’d never know it was the preseason. It’s just one of the things his teammates love about him.
“I love the way he competes,” said tight end Matt LaCosse. “He’s fun to play with.”
On his first real drive as the backup quarterback, Kelly was perfect, capping off a seven-play, 44-yard drive with an absolute laser onto the sticky hands of Courtland Sutton in the end zone.
Can you say gamer?
When all was said and done on his night, Kelly finished 7-of-9 passing for 90 yards and a touchdown with a spiffy 145.4 passer rating. He led his team to 10 points on the night, and it could have been 13 had Vance Joseph been willing to let Brandon McManus attempt a 55-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Kelly’s only mistake on the night? Just missing Tim Patrick on a deep route down the right sideline.
So, do the Broncos need a to sign a veteran backup quarterback?
“F*** no,” one player told me in the locker room, almost disgusted I would suggest such a thing. “F*** no.”
Would you feel comfortable if—knock on wood—Case went down, and Kelly needed to start a game?
“With the way he’s playing right now, absolutely,” another player said. “We don’t need no vet.”
Here’s the fact of the matter, Kelly has the respect of his teammates, and he’s worked damn hard to earn that.
On Saturday night, a source told BSN Denver that if Kelly doesn’t walk into the building with Case Keenum in the morning, it’s because he got there first. At the end of the night—emphasis on night—Kelly and Keenum are also the last two to leave.
And there’s more.
“He would literally do anything for one of his teammates,” running back Phillip Lindsay said. “Whether you need a ride or if you need help with the playbook, he’s got your back… The first time I came in, he was the first one that I met. He went over the plays with me all the time. He is full of energy just like myself, so we came together just because of how he is and how I am.”
“He’s a dog,” Lindsay concluded, giving the QB his signature stamp of approval. “He’s earning a lot of people’s respect.”
Two weeks from today, the Denver Broncos will have to cut their roster from 90 to 53. There are going to be some tough decisions to make. Bring in a veteran QB, and those decisions get even tougher because you sure as heck aren’t going to try and get Chad Kelly to the practice squad. If you keep three quarterbacks, you’re going to have to cut from somewhere else.
“Right now, he’s our backup,” Vance Joseph said after the game. “I can’t speak for two weeks down the road here. But right now, he’s our backup quarterback. That’s the answer.”
Allow me to help out here. If you’re going to have to play, say, free-agent backup Matt Moore in a game, it’s going to be very easy to bet against the Broncos. If you have to play Chad Kelly in a game, well, nobody is exactly chomping at the bit to bet against him.
“He’s got ‘it,'” said Shane Ray. “Some people just have it.”
Save yourselves the millions, the draft pick or whatever else it may take to bring in a more “safe” option, Broncos. Believe in Chad Kelly, because most people who don’t are wrong.