In 2017, Hall of Fame G.M. Bill Polian dubbed Chad Kelly the most talented quarterback in a draft class that included, among others, a player named Patrick Mahomes. On Sunday night, as Mahomes was playing the Chargers on Sunday Night Football, Kelly matched Mahomes in championships won, at one.
Kelly became the last player taken in the draft that year, due in large part to being kicked off the team at Clemson in 2014, an off-field issue from later that year, a torn ACL suffered during his final season at Mississippi in 2016, and a wrist injury that occurred at his Ole Miss Pro Day workout.
As Kelly was climbing the depth chart in Denver, a bizarre incident occurred in connection with Von Miller‘s Halloween party. After being kicked out of the event, Kelly was charged with criminal trespassing for wandering into a nearby home. He was chased out of the residence by a man wielding a vacuum cleaner tube.
Kelly eventually got a second chance with the Colts. He spent 2019 in Indianapolis. However, he didn’t make the roster for the 2020 season. Kelly thereafter had workouts with the Bills, Packers, and Browns, but never got another NFL opportunity.
This year, his opportunity came in Canada. After joining the Toronto Argonauts, Kelly said he planned to become the face of the CFL, to throw for 5,000 to 6,000 yards, and to become the league’s next Doug Flutie.
In Kelly’s first CFL season, he landed as the backup to McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Still, backup quarterbacks are always only one snap away from getting an opportunity to play. That opportunity arrived for Kelly on Sunday night. In the CFL’s championship game.
Bethel-Thompson injured his thumb in the fourth quarter, with the Argonauts trailing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 23-17. Roughly 11 minutes remained in the game. And Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, engineered the Grey Cup-winning drive.
“It felt amazing,” Kelly said after the 24-23 win. “I couldn’t believe that I had the chance right then and there to go and prove myself down six.”
Kelly completed four of six passes for 43 yards. He rushed for 21 yards. Twenty of those yards came on a thrilling second-and-15 scramble that kept the game-winning drive alive. (Remember, in Canada the offense gets only three downs.)
“You never expect to have to put your backup quarterback in that situation and in that way but the second-and-15 scramble that Chad had, that was amazing,” coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. “That changed the game right there. . . . Now you can see why Chad’s so darn confident. He didn’t bat an eye, man. He was ready for that stage.”
Bethel-Thompson put it more bluntly, and profanely.
“He had ice in his veins,” the starter said of his understudy. “He fucking delivered unbelievably — pardon my language.”
Next year, Bethel-Thompson may have to worry about Kelly saying “pardon me” as he makes his play to become the starter in Toronto.