Jim Kelly Buffalo Bills
"I thrive on having everything put in my hands. I love being the guy who has to get it done. I’ve always been that way…if I made the big play, we were usually very successful; if I didn’t, we usually lost.”
The Buffalo Bills selected quarterback Jim Kelly in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft. However, the Miami Hurricane star opted to sign with the Houston Gamblers of the United States Football League. Kelly, in two seasons with the Gamblers, threw for 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns.
The USFL folded following the 1985 season, and Kelly, just prior to the start of the 1986 NFL season, signed with the Bills.
A strong-armed passer with a "linebacker's mentality," Kelly lived up to his advance billing, as he virtually rewrote the Bills' record book for quarterbacks. Only three players in NFL history had reached the 30,000-yard career passing mark faster. Eight times during his NFL career he passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season, and twenty-six times he passed for more than 300 yards in a game. On September 13, 1992, in a 34-31 shootout victory over the Steve Young-led San Francisco 49ers, Kelly passed for a career-high 403 yards.
The Bills, during the 1990s, with Kelly and teammates Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed, possessed a highly potent offense. Kelly's quick decisiveness and fast paced "no-huddle" offense terrorized opposing defenses. He led the NFL in passing in 1990 and the AFC again in 1991. With his 101.2 passer rating in 1990, he became only the fifth quarterback to maintain a rating over 100 since the system was introduced in 1973.
In 11 seasons in Buffalo, Kelly led the Bills to the playoffs eight times. In 17 playoff game appearances, including four consecutive Super Bowls, he passed for 3,863 yards and 21 touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, his 84.4 passer rating ranked sixth all-time and was second when compared to Hall of Fame quarterbacks. His 35,467 career passing yards ranked tenth in NFL history; his 2,874 completions ranked eighth; and his 237 touchdowns ranked thirteenth.
At the time of Kelly's retirement, only Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts, and Johnny Unitas among Hall of Fame quarterbacks had passed for more yardage, and only Tarkenton, and Fouts had completed more passes.