Chad Kelly’s actions incite leadership debate

Francis Boeck , Reporter

On Friday night, Chad Kelly attended a local high school football game between Bishop Timon and his alma mater, St. Joe’s. In the second quarter, Chad’s younger brother Casey, the quarterback for St. Joe’s, was hit late out of bounds, and a bench-clearing brawl broke out.

The Buffalo Police were called, and the game was suspended. Video and pictures show that Chad Kelly was not involved in the brawl, but was on the field and had to be restrained by several people.

National media outlets picked up the story quickly. Before you knew it, people on Twitter were arguing about whether or not what Chad Kelly did was wrong. What makes this story so relevant is Kelly’s Western New York ties. He’s the nephew of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. He’s also the starting quarterback of D-I Ole Miss (his team had a bye this week).

Many feel Kelly was being a hot head and that trying to get into a brawl with high school kids was reckless and stupid, especially when you account for his well-documented past of character issues. However, others argue that Kelly was just being a good big brother who wanted to protect Casey and should be applauded for his actions.

One person on Twitter even went as far as to say that Kelly’s actions would be something he would like his quarterback to do, saying:

“I’m all for a potential All-American fighting high school kids. He has to show he’s an alpha male. A trait I want in my quarterback.”

Whether or not you think Kelly was justified in his actions on Friday night, this situation raises the question: what traits should a quarterback – a leader – possess? Kelly is most likely going to enter the NFL Draft in April. General managers will be asking themselves before the draft, “What kind of character traits do I want in my quarterback?”

Do they want an alpha male who always takes charge and is ultra-competitive even if it means they’re the type of guy who gets in brawls at high school football games? Or do they want someone controlled with good composure who will never let his emotions get the best of him?

Surely, arguments can be made for the alpha male quarterback who never loses confidence. Joe Namath guaranteed a Jets victory in Super Bowl III and was lauded, but times have surely changed.

Today, the quarterback position – especially in the NFL – is a completely different animal from any other position in sports. Many argue the QB is the CEO of the team and they must have strong leadership capabilities, which includes motivation, decision making, and time management.

So instead of looking to the 1960s and ‘70s for great examples of how a quarterback should carry themselves, let’s take a look at recent history and find some commonalities between them.

The last five super bowls have been won by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning. While they may have completely different playing styles, they have a few things in common.

They are all composed. While they may show emotion on the field, they keep it in check. You never see any teammates or coaches ever having to hold these guys back from getting into a fight. They are leaders and have good decision making ability on and off the field.

Let’s take a look at Johnny Manziel. In college, the quarterback was known for his ability to extend plays, make unbelievable throws and being ultra-competitive and full of confidence.

Manziel was also known for making the ‘money sign’ after scoring. Manziel has had off-the-field issues that have escalated since being drafted by the Browns in 2014. Incidents such as partying before a game, drug problems and a domestic violence incident have plagued his NFL career. The Heisman trophy winner was released by the Browns, which even his own family believes is the least of his problems.

In 2011 when the Carolina Panthers had the first overall pick, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson interviewed Cam Newton (last year’s Super Bowl runner-up) a few weeks before the draft, and asked him straight out, “Do you have any tattoos?” and “Do you have any piercings?” both questions to which Newton answered “No sir, I don’t.” Richardson told him, “We want to keep it that way.”

Richardson may seem overbearing, and one can make the argument that his motives were more about marketing, but this says a lot about the quarterback position. More than a few Panthers players have tattoos, but Richardson doesn’t seem to care. But when his team was about to pay $22 million for a quarterback, Richardson suddenly cared.

He was just about to make Cam Newton the CEO of his franchise. Like most CEOs, Newton is not the owner of his company, but is certainly the face of it. Richardson had every right to make sure he was getting the best CEO for his franchise, and asking to keep his appearance up to his standards.

This past spring, Robert Griffin III was spotted with a tattoo on his forearm of his girlfriend’s name, whom he had been dating for just about a month, while still going through a divorce. When Griffin was in Washington, he was criticized for not being a “student of the game,” and being arrogant and aloof.

Go ahead and look up some Fortune 500 CEOs. I bet you won’t find many pictures of them having tattoos. That isn’t to say that they don’t, but they know they are expected to keep up a certain appearance. Now I’m not saying people with tattoos can’t lead and be a great quarterback or CEO. I am saying that it is about being self-aware and knowing that when you’re the face of a franchise or company.

Being self-aware is a trait that Griffin and Manziel seem to lack. They do not understand that how you carry yourself on and off the field is something highly important when being an NFL quarterback. It’s the reason why we allow Rob Gronkowski to host wild parties on cruise ships and bash Manziel for partying the day before the game. Their quarterback position has too much responsibility and Manziel cannot afford to do it.

Newton doesn’t have a tattoo because his owner told him he can’t get one, but because he understands that he’s being paid to be the face of the Carolina franchise, and his owner has the right to expect him to carry himself in a certain way.

It’s why the worst criticism anyone has ever had of Russell Wilson is that he decided to save himself for marriage. It’s why you have never heard of any of the past five Super Bowl winning quarterbacks get in trouble with the law or criticize their coaches and why they are known for their tremendous work ethic.

They know that in order to be a winning quarterback in the NFL today, you need to be self-aware and controlled.

So if your team happens to be looking at Chad Kelly this spring as your next franchise quarterback, ask yourself, “Which quarterbacks in recent history, does he remind me of the most?”

Twitter: @FBoeck300level

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