Jim Kelly Interview: Thoughts On The Buffalo Bills, Andrew Luck, and The NFL
Thanks to Bleacher Report and the Van Heusen Pro Football Hall of Fame for making a very interesting chat with Hall of Fame quarterback and Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly possible.
As an ardent fan of the Miami Dolphins, I must admit the prospect of interviewing Kelly didn't exactly seem natural being that the signal caller was an arch rival for so many years.
But, we had a fun time with some good-natured ribbing and much more importantly he took the time to cover a wealth of different topics that I hope you will enjoy reading about.
Bills fans should realize and probably already do that Kelly is bright, articulate and a total class act.
I have broken the interview down into the several sub-topics we discussed on the following slides. Enjoy!
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andrew Luck
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Question: Since you are a Hall of Fame quarterback, is Ryan Fitzpatrick a future component of this franchise?
Answer: I think to a certain point, yes. He made huge strides this year to get the Bills brain trust to understand that he is a good quarterback, and he is. He did a great job up until he got hurt in the last game.
It gives the guys that are preparing for this draft (the idea) that maybe we don't go with a quarterback with our first overall pick. Maybe we go for an offensive tackle. Maybe we go for a dominant pass rusher to be on the other side of Shawne Merriman, who the Buffalo Bills just signed to a two-year deal.
We need other positions more than we need a quarterback right now. Hey, say we had the first pick of the draft and Andrew Luck was there. Maybe, you do enough of your homework and say that he is a franchise guy that you bank your future on. Or, maybe the Buffalo Bills look and they don't feel that Ryan (Fitzpatrick) is a guy who will be here for six or seven more years. Maybe you look to move up to that first pick overall.
But I don't think Carolina is going to give that up. I think Andrew Luck, if he comes out, is the real deal and a franchise guy.
2. Fixing The Buffalo Bills
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Question: It looks like the Bills made some improvements this year. But, what do they need to do to become a factor again in the AFC East?
Answer: Well, you need to learn how to win number one. You need to get players in there that are consistently available week in and week out. We have had way, way too many injuries at some key positions.
We need to go after, whether it's in the draft, and we need to build through the draft, or free agency, an offensive tackle, maybe free agency if somebody's contract is up. I'm not totally involved in the thought process when it comes to what's available out there right now, especially with the collective bargaining agreement running out and wondering if we are going to have a season next year.
But, the Bills definitely have to be involved in the free-agent market for somebody we can't bring in through the draft. We need to do whatever it takes and open up that wallet a little bit wider.
We have got to turn this thing around because being at the bottom of the barrell at the AFC East doesn't sit very well with me. I know it doesn't sit well with a lot of people.
I know the Bills will do whatever they can. I think Chan Gailey is a good choice to get this thing turned around.
3. The Integrity of the Playoffs
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Question: A 7-9 team makes the playoffs; how do you feel about that?
Answer: It is what it is.
That's my favorite saying so far with that question because unfortunately no one would want to see that, especially when you are a 10-6 New York Giants team that is going to be sitting at home watching the playoffs while you have a team like the Seattle Seahawks that is 7-9 (and in the playoffs).
Not only that, but they are hosting a game. But, you know what? It doesn't happen that often and I am glad it doesn't because it's sad to say.
But, it is what it is. They beat the guys in their division, so I guess they have earned the right to a certain point. Unfortunately, it is what it is.
4. Prospects of an 18 Game Regular Season Schedule
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Question: There are lot of issues with the possibility of an impending lockout. One that I think you are especially qualified to talk about as a former player is the prospect of an 18 game season.
I look at Sunday's games and certainly a lot of players just took off because it served as a bye week. But there are a lot of players hurt or on injured reserve. Now, they want to add two more games.
Is that the right move and is there any way to stop it?
Answer: I'm sure they don't care what I say or how I feel. But, I totally disagree with that.
I think that an 18 game season is way too long for a team that is either getting reading for the playoffs and hopes that nobody gets hurt, or being a team like the Carolina Panthers or the Buffalo Bills knowing that you have to play two more games even though three quarters of the way through the season you already knew that you were out of the playoffs.
Put yourself in the fan's position, having to go out there in the middle of January during the regular season, fight the weather, and try to cheer your team on for what reason? To win more football games and not have to worry about making the playoffs.
The biggest factor of all is the injuries and getting guys ready for the playoffs. Also, the Superbowl will probably be pushed back to the middle of February.
5. The Disappearance of The Running Back and Helmets To Helmet Hits
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Question: Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania made a comment a week ago that "we have become a nation of wusses." He was directing his thoughts to not playing in the snow, but there is a lot of questions right now, especially among fans, whether the game of football is changing and changing for the better.
There are two issues I want to focus on and you can address either one.
First, it doesn't seem like the running back, at least as a traditional runner, is relevant anymore. You look at the best teams and they really don't have great running backs for a variety of reasons.
Second, and you have an interesting perspective being a quarterback, it seems that offense, especially passing offense "rules the day." I am not saying that a defender should be able to lead with his helmet. However, it seems they have really cut back on what a defender is able to do.
Are they ruining the game?
Answer: No, I think they are trying to make it safer. There are a few thoughts.
Number one, they are really trying to make sure the quarterback is protected. I think they need to do something.
Now, some of the calls they were making were kind of ridiculous. Some of the fines that they were handing out were a little far-fetched. Football is football. It's a tough sport. I get what Ed Rendell was saying.
Sometimes, we get a little soft and act like wusses. I agree to a certain point. But (with regards to Rendell's comments) you have to keep fan safety as the No. 1 priority. I think that was one of the reasons they postponed the Philadelphia game.
Overall with regards to the running backs and the passing game, I love it. Yeah, I would still love to have Thurman Thomas as my running back in the backfield, but, fans want to see scoring. They want to see high-powered offenses throwing the football. They don't want to see off-tackle right, off-tackle left, and throw the football on third down.
They want to see the wide-open game these days. I think last year was the first time ever that eight or nine quarterbacks threw for over 3,000 yards. That's unbelievable. I think there are probably the same amount, if not more that are throwing for over 3,000 yards this season. Look at what college football is doing now with the wide open spread offenses. I like that part (of the game).
You made a very good point that some of these top teams don't have say an Emmit Smith, a Thurman Thomas or a Walter Payton type of running back. They don't, but they don't feature those guys (in the offense) too. Yet, some guys still get over a 1,000 yards too.
6. Van Heusen Hall Of Fame Project
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Question: How did you get involved with the Van Heusen Hall of Fame project?
Answer: I originally got involved because I am a Hall of Famer and I understand how much the fans would love to be part of the voting process when it comes down to making selections. Van Heusen has teamed up with the Hall of Fame to be one of the major sponsors. Of course, so many of my friends and I, we love to have a say in how it goes.
The good thing about this is that there are over three million people who have already voted so far and that's almost double what there was last year. They think they're going to reach five million voters this year.
Once the fans have voted, this will go into all the writers' hands and they will be able to see who the fans picked as their top 25, top 15, the best from their view point. It's not always about looking to a writer who has never played the game of football. It's good that they will see that fans who have been watching the game for years will have a voice or opinion.
Question: Will the website reveal how the fans voted as well as the final selections?
Answer: Yes, it will. Log onto FansChoice.com, you get to vote as many times as you want. We love your opinion, whether it was someone you followed in fantasy football when you first did it a few years back or someone you or your father idolized year's back. Go on the website and have your voice heard.
Even to have a guy like Ed Sabol (in the Hall of Fame). Ed Sabol was the legend of NFL Films. We'd like to have fans understand that NFL Films wouldn't be here if it wasn't for a guy like Ed Sabol. So vote for him. Put him on your ballot. Vote for Andre Reed, my receiver, a guy who caught so many passes. That's a couple of names I just put out there.
7. Jim Kelly's Future In Football
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Question: You mentioned not being involved on a day-to-day level with what the decision making process is, but one of your counterparts, John Elway, just became very involved down in Denver.
Is that something you aspire to?
Answer: No, not really. I have so many things going on with my son's foundation, Hunter's Hope. So for all the readers out there log on to HuntersHope.org to learn more about what we are doing. It's pretty cool.
To be honest with you, I am so involved in so many things: trying to get legislation changed for universal screening (for Krabbe's disease), I'm an outdoor freak. I am so busy right now that I am glad I have enough time just to watch my daughters play basketball. I have a 15-year-old daughter starting on the varsity team so I get to watch her and that's pretty neat.
I am just too busy to wear a suit and tie every day.
8. Hunter's Hope Foundation
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Question: What is the status of Hunter's Hope Foundation and the fight against Krabbe's disease right now? How are you doing with that?
Answer: We're doing awesome! In fact, I am so passionate about this I could talk for an hour about it.
To make a long story short, we are focusing on every state to make sure that every child in this country that is born in the United States has a chance to have a certain quality of life.
Unfortunately, when my son was born and he was born on my birthday, Valentines Day, he wound up dying at the age of nine years old. His life was cut short and if they would have tested for this disease at birth he would have had a chance at that life.
We're trying to make sure that every state gets up to par. New York had eleven (diagnoses) and now they are up to 53. The state of Pennsylvania, under Governor Rendell, went from nine to over 30. We're making great progress, but we're making it at a snail's pace.
You know me. I like that fast-paced offense. I want all these kids to be able to realize their dreams. Unfortunately, some of these states move at a snail's pace. But, we'll continue to push and if all your readers want to log on to huntershope.org and find out what we're doing and what we're all about, please do. We are making an impact on people's lives right now, today, as we speak.
9. Who Wins The Superbowl?
Question: A fun question to finish up. Where do we stand in February? Who is going to win the Super Bowl?
Answer: Right now, I think New England is the best team by far over everybody.
They are just so dominant. Tom Brady is probably one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play and he's playing that way right now.
I see home-field advantage working out for both teams. The Atlanta Falcons face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl with New England winning it.
It's hard for me to say, because I am not a big Bill Belichick fan and of course with New England in the AFC East, it's tough for a Buffalo Bill to say that. I'm not going with my heart; I am going with my brain this time.