New Argos’ QB Chad Kelly wants to be ‘the face of the league’ and throw for 6,000 yards like Doug Flutie

Photo courtesy: Ole Miss Athletics

It’s time to get out your CFL off-season bingo cards, because newly signed Toronto Argonauts’ quarterback Chad Kelly believes he can be one of the best to ever play in the CFL.

Simply check the box labeled “Rookie American QB Arrogance” and move on, just like you do every year.

“(My) goal is to be the starter and be the face of the league,” Kelly told for Ole Miss fan site, Spaghetti Junction Boys — indicating that he believes he can get back to playing in the NFL. “(The) big picture is take care of business up north and see what happens.”

While raised across the border in Niagara Falls, the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly admits to knowing little about the intricacies of the CFL. In a recent radio appearance on TSN 1050’s Game Play, Kelly told host Matthew Cauz that “there’s only three major rules that I see changes” but also insisted that his year one goal was to be on the same level as one of the greatest CFL quarterbacks of all-time.

“I know I saw that Doug Flutie threw for 5,000 or 6,000 yards in a couple years and I want to be like him. I want to be able to throw for that many yards and take off and run when need be,” Kelly said. “He was a Toronto Argonaut, why not?”

Of course, every quarterback who has ever played the game of football did so with the express intention of being a high level starter. That Kelly wishes to unseat incumbent McLeod Bethel-Thompson should come as no surprise, in fact it is the very reason the Argos coveted him.

Still, it is a story every CFL fan has seen play out time and time again. Brash young American signal caller with an NCAA or NFL pedigree makes his way north with big expectations, only to be rudely awakened by the realities of the three-down game.

Kelly threw for 6,800 yards, 50 touchdowns and 21 interceptions over two seasons with Ole Miss and rushed 187 times for 841 yards and 15 scores. He has all the tools to be an elite CFL quarterback — big arm, gutsy demeanour, fantastic mobility — but so did every other marquee passer that has proceeded him, from Johnny Manziel all the way down the list. Even Flutie spent parts of his first season unceremoniously stapled to the bench.

Like so many others, the question becomes whether Kelly will be able to adjust to the sudden realization that he won’t be able to dominate north of the border from his first snap. In the past, that has been the quarterback’s greatest weakness, as an altercation with coaches saw him booted from Clemson ahead of his sophomore season.

It was attitude, not talent, that saw Kelly fall to the final pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and a charge for criminal trespassing that saw him released by the Denver Broncos just over a year later. Two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts were relatively quiet, but the public perception of the quarterback is still tainted.

“Chad is an incredible guy, misunderstood by many but loved and appreciated by us,” his agent Bryan Miller told Spaghetti Junction Boys.

“Despite an adversity-filled journey Chad has been able to overcome and conquer a lot of obstacles. Many would have given up but not him, that’s just not who he is. After his stint with the Colts and a few NFL workouts that didn’t transpire into a contract, Chad has been working diligently for his next opportunity. His belief in himself and football IQ is unprecedented.”

If he has matured, his time with the Argos could be a different story, but self-belief is a double-edged sword that has pierced the lungs of many a cross-border QB hopeful. To be different, Kelly will have to put his head down and put his “face of the league” expectations to the side.

“I’m looking forward to helping the team win and just doing whatever I have to, but one thing for sure is that I’m going to come to work ready every single day and try to put our team in the best position to win and score touchdowns and make the fans be happy to be Toronto Argonaut fans,” he told Cauz.

Many have issued that decree and few have followed up with it, how Kelly fares is up to him. “Highly-touted QB released” is another square on CFL fans’ bingo cards, but he doesn’t have to be the one to check it.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.