The NFL’s Denver Broncos have run into dire straits when it comes to the quarterback spot. Left without a successor after what remained of Peyton Manning retired and replacement in waiting Brock Osweiler threw a snit and left for Houston, the proud franchise has one of the worst quarterback situations in the entire league.
Having drafted lanky project Paxton Lynch in the first-round last year, the team found him so unprepared to play at a professional level that the defense of their title was entrusted to a seventh-round pick and third-stringer Trevor Siemien. The youngster basically played up to his less than lofty status and without the help of either a decent offensive line or a running game, the Broncos ended up missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010, a good deal of it could be attributed to Siemien’s horrific play down the stretch.
The Broncos went all in with Manning after his release from the Indianapolis Colts who chose to cut ties with their longtime superstar over a lingering neck injury. Denver immediately pounced. Led by Hall of Fame quarterback turned general manager John Elway, the Broncos engineered a deal that would bring Manning to the Mile High City for four years in the hopes of winning a Super Bowl or two.
Manning’s first year landed the Broncos with their 13-3 record homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs but inexplicably came out flat against the visiting Baltimore Ravens in bite-ass cold temperatures in the divisional round.
Despite all of Manning’s regular season successes he has always had issues in the postseason and especially in the elements. While the new Broncos quarterback had a mediocre game, he had the team in a position to win with time running down. Then Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw it up for grabs, Broncos safety Rahim Moore blew it and allowed the visitors to send the game into overtime where the demoralized Broncos lost.
The 2013 season was on in which Manning rewrote the NFL record books, finishing with 5,477 passing yards and a record shattering 55 touchdowns. The Broncos scored a league record 606 points only to have it all be for naught when they were destroyed 43-8 by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, proving the old adage that defense wins championships.
It was midway through 2014 that Manning began to deteriorate physically and the drop off was brutal. While the Broncos were stunned in the first round of the playoffs, the defense had been rebuilt and in 2015 it dragged a broken-down Manning across the finish line for that elusive Vince Lombardi Trophy.
With Denver having done nothing in the offseason to improve their woeful quarterbacking they just may have lucked into a solution with Mr. Irrelevant. That is the title given to the last pick in each year’s NFL draft and who faces long odds at making a roster let alone being successful.
But this year’s pick is different and the Broncos could have hit it big in terms of a long-term solution under center.
With the 253rd overall pick Denver tabbed former Ole Miss stud quarterback Chad Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Famer and Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly.
The younger Kelly would certainly have been much higher rated were it not for a history of off the field problems as well as a series of injuries. The latter will most certainly result in what would basically be a redshirt year for the Broncos.
Kelly is an intriguing pick and has a history of college achievements, most impressively having led the Rebels to a big win against the juggernaut Alabama Crimson Tide. He also threw for 4,042 yards, 31 touchdowns and rushed for 500 yards and another 10 touchdowns in 2015. That monster year was capped off by a heroic Sugar Bowl performance, a 48-20 win against Oklahoma State.
QB Chad Kelly’s 4 TD passes tied the Sugar Bowl record and were the most ever by an Ole Miss player in a bowl game! pic.twitter.com/hOXe6nhV5W
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) January 2, 2016
Kelly tore his ACL in 2016 and also injured his wrist, forcing him to miss the pre-draft pro day. Kelly’s bad luck may actually end up working in his favor if he is able to make a go of it with the Broncos whose new coach Vance Joseph has excitedly referred to him as his favorite quarterback in the entire draft.
Elway called uncle Jim Kelly who personally vouched for his nephew as being a “good kid” and let’s face it, Kelly is far from the only player in the draft with a checkered past. Many of them were drafted in the top rounds.
So, Denver could be on the brink of winning another big gamble. They won with Manning – although barely – and may do so again if Kelly ends being the solution to the hole at the quarterback position because it isn’t looking like either Lynch or Siemien are the answer.