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With Taylor Kelly, starting should not necessarily mean finishing

Taylor Kelly is a great kid.

Taylor Kelly is a good quarterback.

Taylor Kelly is having a poor season.

All three of those points are mutually exclusive. None of those points should affect who starts at quarterback for Arizona State against Washington State. One of those points should affect who finishes the game on Saturday.

Kelly has accomplished a laundry list of positives as a player and a person; he should be remembered as the quarterback who led the team to great wins at the Rose Bowl and a huge comeback at Utah. He managed the team to victory against Notre Dame this year. He’s had a wonderful career. It’s that career that should be celebrated by giving him the start for his last game at Sun Devil Stadium.

There’s also reality. He’s accomplished too much to simply have a few poor games while coming back from injury affect his legacy. These last few games should be used, however, to evaluate if he gives the team the best chance to win the remaining games of 2014. Taylor Kelly has not been the reason ASU has gone 3-1 since his return. Kelly hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been good, either. The sample size is large enough to question whether or not Kelly should finish the Washington State game if he’s struggling.

Taylor Kelly will and should start the game Saturday. Only his play should determine if he should finish the game. If Kelly makes one mistake, he stays in the game. If Kelly continues to run the ball without authority, he should stay in the game. If Kelly throws another pick-six, he should stay in the game.

If he plays poorly once again and ASU is trailing by more than two possessions at halftime, he should not finish the game. Kelly has earned the right to work on his issues through playing time. He’s been granted that right against UW, Utah, Notre Dame and Oregon State. Eighteen quarters of football is enough time to evaluate the chances of Kelly leading a comeback.

If Arizona State was simply fighting for bowl eligibility, the “finishing quarterback” is not a topic of conversation. If ASU was hoping to just “finish strong” during a bad losing season, keep him in because he has done too much for the team to bail now. The current situation is not one of those examples. A loss to Washington State ends ASU’s chance to win the Pac-12 South. When you agree to play for a major conference school, there are expectations. For completely understandable and justifiable reasons, he has not performed to those expectations.

I believe Taylor Kelly will rise to the occasion. I believe Taylor Kelly will have a great Senior Day and lead ASU to victory. I also believe it’s a mistake to leave him in the game if he’s part of the reason ASU is trailing late in the game. Todd Graham showed tremendous loyalty by returning the team to Taylor Kelly after Mike Bercovici’s three-game stint as the starter. Graham has already showed tremendous and earned patience for Taylor Kelly’s play since returning from injury. Now is the time for that patience to be rewarded. If it isn’t, it’s time for Mike Bercovici, to not be the starting quarterback for ASU against Washington State, but to be the finishing quarterback.

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