Chad Kelly is a Canadian Football League champion, but his sights are set on the Super Bowl. The 28-year-old, who is the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, believes that he is better than most of the current signal-callers in the NFL.
Kelly, who led a game-winning drive for the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup (Canadian Super Bowl) on Sunday night, spoke with Pardon My Take about a myriad of topics. During the interview, he was asked to estimate the number of NFL teams on which he would be QB1.
There was no hesitation. Kelly believes that he could start over 50% of current NFL starting quarterbacks.
This year’s starters include:
- Tom Brady
- Aaron Rodgers
- Josh Allen
- Justin Herbert
- Patrick Mahomes
- Joe Burrow
- Lamar Jackson
- Matthew Stafford
- Dak Prescott
- Kyler Murray / Colt McCoy
- Russell Wilson
- Derek Carr
- Kirk Cousins
- Ryan Tannehill / Malik Willis
- Jalen Hurts
- Matt Ryan / Sam Ehlinger
- Mac Jones / Bailey Zappe
- Jameis Winston / Andy Dalton
- Tua Tagovailoa
- Carson Wentz / Taylor Heinicke
- Jared Goff
- Baker Mayfield / P.J. Walker / Sam Darnold
- Trevor Lawrence
- Trey Lance / Jimmy Garoppolo
- Justin Fields
- Daniel Jones
- Geno Smith
- Joe Flacco / Zach Wilson
- Marcus Mariota
- Kenny Pickett / Mitchell Trubisky
- Davis Mills
- Jacoby Brissett / Deshaun Watson
Kelly is confident that half of those names would be his backups.
Chad Kelly explained why he thinks he would start in the NFL.
Obviously there’s a lot of off the field stuff, right? We all know about it. It’s all been publicized. You know, you stick a camera in a kid’s face at eight years old and give him his own day, you know, that’s predominately what’s going to happen, is that the light is going to shine a little brighter when it’s good or bad, right?
But I think people mistaken my on the field capabilities of thinking clearly, right? Because they see that I do some dumb things off the field. So I think that with my saying 50-percent, I feel like I know the game a lot more than a lot of people because I started at such a young age, and that’s all I knew. In order to, you know, make it in life, I thought it was just to play in the NFL, really not even play in college. It was to play for the Buffalo Bills or someone, you know? That was the main focus my whole life.— Chad Kelly on where he thinks he stands within the NFL
While Kelly’s 50% evaluation may be bold, he is right that his on-field play has been nothing but impressive. Most recently, he came in off the bench during the biggest game of his first Canadian Football League season, led his team down the field and ultimately won the game for Toronto.
Chad Kelly’s career was a rollercoaster prior to his time Canada, but it’s impossible to deny his talent.
Kelly, a four-star recruit in the Class of 2012, began his career at Clemson but was dismissed from the team in April of his sophomore year for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He got into it with Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris during the spring game.
Due to the dismissal, Kelly spent a year at East Mississippi Community College (Last Chance U) and led the Lions to an undefeated season en route to a NJCAA National Football Championship. That is where Hugh Freeze took notice and recruited him to come north.
What Kelly did at Ole Miss was incredible and his raw talent is hard to overlook. There is a legitimate case to be made that the is the greatest single-season quarterback in school history.
In 2015, his only full season in Oxford, Kelly led the Rebels to a 10-3 record with a road victory over eventual national champion Alabama and a decisive Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma State. Kelly led the SEC with 4042 passing yards and 31 passing touchdowns that year. He was better than Dak Prescott, Kyle Allen and Will Grier, among others.
To compare, Eli Manning’s best single season saw 3,600 passing yards and 29 passing touchdowns. Kelly also recorded a higher completion percentage, rushed for 500 more yards and ran for seven more touchdowns than Manning.
Kelly’s 4,542 yards of total offense in 2015 is only bested by Johnny Manziel (twice), and before an injury cut his 2016 campaign short, he threw for 2,758 yards and 19 touchdowns.
In addition to his on-field play, he has all of the intangibles. He is the highest-rated quarterback in Sports Science history, even over Patrick Mahomes.
After two years with the Rebels, Chad Kelly was drafted with the last pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.
Unfortunately, Kelly’s time in the NFL is marred by off-field incidents.
Perhaps most notably, he was suspended by the NFL in May of 2019 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after he got a little too turnt at Von Miller’s Halloween party. According to a police report from his arrest, Kelly toddled into the house of someone he did not know and proceeded to sit on the couch, “mumbling incoherently” aside the homeowners.
Kelly, who was dressed similarly to Woody from Toy Story, only left after one of the residents chased him out with an aluminum vacuum tube.
Not too long after being let go by Denver, Indianapolis picked him up.
Kelly played for parts of four seasons between the Broncos and the Colts, but he never threw a pass in a regular season game. That didn’t keep him from making a strong impression with his rocket arm and sneaky wheels.
Former Colts head coach Frank Reich was impressed with the SEC’s leading passer from 2015 and entered the preseason in 2020 with a favorable outlook.
“I cannot tell you how happy we are with Chad,” he said that year. “He’s progressed a lot as a quarterback. He really works hard at it. He knows how to fight. He’s a good teammate. He has worked with Phil Simms. He’s really worked hard at his craft and continuing to improve.”
Despite his natural talent, he never had an opportunity to reach the starting spot on a depth chart and was cut by the Colts in favor of Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett and Jacob Eason.
The Colts never should have let Chad Kelly go. Their mistake.
After his brief stint with Indianapolis, Kelly partook in Ole Miss’ 2021 Pro Day and dropped dimes.
He also worked out with the Bills and the Packers, but did not make either squad.
Ultimately, Kelly spent the entire 2021 season away from the game. He didn’t make an NFL roster, the CFL did not look his way, and he chose not to partake in any of the new spring/summer leagues.
When Kelly signed with the Argonauts back in February, it marked the first time that he was on a professional roster since September 30, 2020. Toronto’s decision to sign the former SEC standout paid off. Not only did Kelly fill-in for the team’s injured starter on a few instances throughout the regular season, he came off of the bench in the Grey Cup and led his team to victory.
Now, while his claim that he would start over 50% of NFL Qbs is questionable, he might not be wrong. Kelly’s talent speaks for itself. He’s a baller.
Either way, Kelly — better known to many as ‘Swag’ — is definitely a better rapper than more than 50% of NFL quarterbacks.
If Kelly is going to get another shot at the NFL, he isn’t getting any younger. UNLOCK THE SWAG!