Denver Broncos: What is it going to take to get Chad Kelly on the field?

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 16: Quarterback Chad Kelly #6 of the Denver Broncos throws as he warms up before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on September 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 16: Quarterback Chad Kelly #6 of the Denver Broncos throws as he warms up before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on September 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos’ offense is seemingly being held back by Case Keenum at this point. At what point would we see backup Chad Kelly?

How long can the quarterback position hold back the Denver Broncos? How long is Case Keenum’s leash? How long until we see Chad Kelly get a chance?

The Broncos have not had consistently good quarterback play since the 2014 season, and free agent signee Case Keenum was supposed to come in and change that.

The Broncos made signing Keenum a priority after it was clear that Kirk Cousins was pricing himself out of range, reeling in the former Vikings starter on a two-year, $36 million deal.

Last season with the Vikings, Keenum had 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, leading the team to the NFC Championship game in the process. Through four games with the Broncos, Keenum has just three touchdowns and six interceptions.

More than that, Keenum appears to be holding the Broncos’ offense back from reaching its full potential as a whole right now. He’s struggling to make accurate throws even with a clean pocket.

Vance Joseph doesn’t seem too worried about Keenum’s lack of production thus far, but he did emphasize that winning games in the NFL and throwing the football go hand-in-hand, so there’s a disconnect here.

Keenum hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since week one this season when he had three touchdowns and three interceptions against the Seattle Seahawks. He had a rushing touchdown and has had a couple of really close calls with ‘almost’ touchdowns, but ‘almost’ touchdowns don’t help the team win games or count in the stat book.

Right now, every metric including wins and losses seems to indicate that Case Keenum is not playing well enough for the Broncos to be able to contend this season, so at what point would the team look to Chad Kelly for a spark, if at all?

We know the Broncos’ coaching staff is going to be a bit stubborn here, as would most in the NFL. Benching Keenum would send a pretty clear message of confidence and the NFL is not like other sports where star players (or in this case, quarterbacks) could sit on the bench during a cold streak and hopefully be hot the next time out.

In order for Kelly to get regular season reps, a couple of things would have to happen.

The most likely reason for Kelly taking the field at any point this season would be if Keenum got hurt. Nobody is wishing that on Keenum, no matter how poorly he plays.

If the Broncos feel like everything else is operating well over the course of the next few weeks but Keenum still struggles to finish drives in the red zone, throw touchdown passes, or in general contribute to the game in a positive way, there’s always a chance they could look to Kelly for that spark.

It would be a slim chance, but what if Keenum did something like what Peyton Manning did in the first half of a game against the Chiefs in 2015 and throw four interceptions? How can you put that guy back out onto the field if he’s making that many mistakes?

As is often the case, any decision like that is usually made way past the point when the fans would consider it overdue.

There are probably some fans who feel like a move to Kelly this weekend against the Jets would be overdue.

There are some good things Keenum is doing but they are too sporadic right now to get excited about. As far as what you might consider a quarterback’s ‘dream’ scenario, Keenum has it. The Broncos are running the ball extremely well despite facing loaded boxes, the offensive line is a lot better than it has been in pass protection, and at least against Kansas City, the defense provided plenty of opportunities to score the football, especially in the first three quarters.

The Broncos have weapons offensively. There is really no excuse for a quarterback not to succeed unless he is physically limited, is making incorrect reads, or is simply missing throws to open receivers.

Right now, there’s a combination of those things happening with Keenum, and if they persist in the coming weeks, the Broncos may have no choice but to look to Kelly. After all, Vance Joseph’s job is going to be on the line and the team has to win games. As everyone has said, no one cares how the games are won, they just care that they get won.

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What if Kelly can play a part in that? As has been the (very frustrating) case with the Broncos over the past few years, the quarterback play is at the point where putting in the unproven backup with upside feels like it couldn’t be worse than what has shown up on Sundays.