You’d be hard pressed to find someone who’s a bigger fan of Jim Kelly than myself. He’s among my favorite football players of all-time and bar none, my favorite Buffalo Bill. I’ve gotten into fights (literally) with fans who refuse to include him among the game’s greatest quarterbacks ever. He’s the only player current or past I own multiple jerseys of.
To this day, Kelly is one of only a few individuals I’m still a bit awestruck by when in the same room. He’s the closest thing in sports I have to a hero, mainly due to such a deep respect for his trademark toughness above all else.
Back in 2002 I got a media credential to cover his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of all the days on the calendar, my sister had to pick August 2 as her date to get married. I was forced to cancel my trip to Canton, Ohio that year because of the wedding. I’ve yet to fully forgive her.
Having said that, I really hope Bills owner Ralph Wilson doesn’t listen much these days to what Kelly has to say publicly when it comes to who the Bills should… and shouldn’t have quarterbacking the team. In a blog entry by NFL.com senior writer Vic Carucci, he said he ran into Kelly at the airport and while discussing Buffalo quarterback possibilities, it was pretty clear he didn’t think it would be a good idea for the team to take Cam Newton with the third overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
“When you use a pick that high, you’d better be a hundred percent sure about what you’re getting,” Kelly told Carucci. “Well, maybe you can’t ever be a hundred percent sure about anyone, but…”
Carucci said he quickly got the impression that Kelly wasn’t a fan of Newton.
Rewind to about a year ago. There was growing speculation the Bills were interested in acquiring then-Eagles third string quarterback Michael Vick. Kelly told anyone who would listen, including NFL.com, that he didn’t like Vick personally and him coming to Buffalo wouldn’t work out.
“I hope Michael Vick does not become a Buffalo Bill,” Kelly said at the time. ”I don’t want him, and I know there’s a lot of other people who don’t want him to come there. But it’s not my decision. For me, it’s about personal reasons why I don’t want him on the Bills. We’ll leave it at that.”
Now, Kelly doesn’t like Vick personally, and whether he’s right or wrong, he had the right to not want him here for personal reasons and in Kelly’s defense, he cited personal reasons. But in other interviews, Kelly said that Vick would be a poor fit on the field as well as off it, and predicted the Bills would rue the day they traded for him.
About a year later, Vick was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year by a landslide and finished second to only Tom Brady in NFL MVP voting. He threw for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions, and ran for 676 yards and nine more scores.
Even the most ardent Vick detractors are level headed enough to comprehend there’s no way the Bills are a 4-12 football team last season had Vick been behind center. And with weapons like Lee Evans, Stevie Johnson, Roscoe Parrish and C.J. Spiller, the Bills arguably have better skill players overall than what Vick has in Philadelphia.
Personal feelings aside, Kelly was dead-wrong about Vick from everything we’ve witnessed over the last several months.
It’s become obvious Kelly has a strong opinion on quarterbacks and this time it’s about Newton. Again, he’s earned every right to express himself and when he does, people will want to listen.
But that doesn’t make him right. Carucci said Kelly clearly seems more comfortable with the Bills sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Kelly said about him “that guy is tough.”
Kelly’s right about one thing: Fitzpatrick is tough. Just like Aaron Maybin is fast, Chris Kelsay is gritty, Donte Whitner is a leader and Leodis McKelvin is athletic.
The Bills without question need plenty of help defensively up front. But in the opinion of someone far less credible than Kelly, above all else they need winners and game-changers.
Cam Newton is a winner. He’s also a great fit for Chan Gailey’s “pistol” offense. Sorry if you don’t like him just as you didn’t Vick, Jimbo. It pains me to say, but even your heroes can be wrong.
I’m not ready to say Wilson, Buddy Nix and anyone else with input on the decision should draft Newton if they don’t feel he’s a franchise quarterback. But at the very least, I hope Kelly’s opinion positively has no bearing on their thought process at all. If he’s willing to talk to reporters about not wanting Newton, I can only imagine what he’s telling Wilson.