Prediction: Chad Kelly Will Become The First "Mr. Irrelevant" To Start At Quarterback

By Tully Corcoran

If you haven’t been following along, the Denver Broncos’ quarterbacks are: Case Keenum, Chad Kelly and Paxton Lynch.

In that order.

Kelly and Lynch switched places on the Broncos depth chart this week after Lynch, a former first-round pick, threw up such a rotten performance in Denver’s first preseason game that fans booed him off the field and have started a GoFundMe to get him cut from the roster altogether.

Which means the only thing standing between Chad Kelly and history is Case Keenum. Which probably means that before this thing is over, Chad Kelly is going to become the first “Mr. Irrelevant” ever to start an NFL game at quarterback.

“Mr.  Irrelevant,” of course, refers to the last player taken in the NFL Draft in a given year. Since the NFL began in 1936, only six quarterbacks have been Mr. Irrelevant.

  • George Haffner (1965)
  • Randy Essington (1984)
  • Larry Wanke (1991)
  • Ronnie McAda (1997)
  • Chandler Harnish (2012)
  • Chad Kelly (2017)

Haffner, Essington, Wanke, and McAda all failed to make their teams. Harnish was on active rosters in Indianapolis and Minnesota from 2012-14, appearing in one game for Minnesota in 2014 without recording any statistics.

Kelly’s promotion to second string on the Broncos depth chart is, as far as I can tell from the spotty records available on this stuff, unprecedented in NFL history. The former Ole Miss star was about the only bright spot for the Broncos in a loss to the Vikings over the weekend, completing 14 of 21 passes for 177 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Lynch was 6-for-11 for 24 yards, an interception and a sack.

Keenum went 1-for-5, but by the sounds of things he’s securely in the No. 1 spot. Yet there may not be a starting quarterback in the NFL who gets less respect from his own coaches than Keenum. Since joining the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012, Keenum has played for Houston, St. Louis, Houston (again), St. Louis/Los Angeles (again), Minnesota and now Denver, always as the sparky underdog who makes do with some pedestrian physical gifts.

There does seem to be a certain magic to Keenum, who was essentially not recruited in high school and got himself into the Heisman conversation in 2011, went undrafted after breaking every passing record there ever was at Houston, and then led the Vikings to a playoff win that is now known as the “Minneapolis Miracle … ”

… and still he didn’t get re-signed.

Keenum, 30, has started more than nine games just once in his career, when he started 14 for the Vikings last year, leading them to an 11-3 record in those starts and posting a career-best passer rating (98.3). Based on that history, it would not be any kind of a surprise to see Keenum on the bench at some point in 2018, clearing the way for Kelly to do something that is not even close to having been done before. ‘

If Kelly so much as records a statistic in a regular-season game, he’ll have made history, and rendered his mock title irrelevant.