Kelly's words carry weight in the Buffalo area, so here are his complete thoughts on EJ Manuel from the interview:
Q: Jim, we saw the Bills struggle once again last year. I know it pains you to see this team have their issues. But until they get the production and consistency at the quarterback position which they really haven't had since you've been there, they're going to continue to struggle. Just your thoughts on what you've seen from EJ Manuel and really Doug Marrone's comments about not being happy with the backup quarterback situation.
Jim Kelly: "Well to be honest, I'm not happy with any of them. I would love to see EJ come on. I've heard him before talk to the press. Number one, he's a great guy. He's a great leader. I've heard him speak to the team, I've heard him speak to the receivers before they take the field. His leadership is there. Everything is there but I have not yet seen what we all want to see. And I'm sure he feels the same way. It just hasn't happened and hopefully that's just because of preseason. But he still has one more game to try to polish up some of the things that he needs to work on. But I'm not happy with anything I see, as far as the quarterback position. I would love to see EJ ... he's such a good kid. I'm pulling for him and I'll continue to pull for him, but that is a position without a doubt that is going to determine how the Buffalo Bills do this year. We have a good defense, great receivers, good running backs. It's up to EJ. He'll take us as far as he can and I just hope he starts playing better."
Q: Jim, we've talked today about how hard it is to evaluate that position and develop that position. I'm not asking you to pass judgment at this point, but how hard is it for you to sit down and recognize whether the guy's got the skill set in your mind that's worth developing versus the guy that you can just look at and know, as hard as it is for an organization to make the decision, he may not be our guy. How tough is that decision?
JK: "Well I'm sure it's tough. Thank God I don't have to make that decision because unfortunately I've got to go into that locker room and EJ is a friend of mine. But so was Ryan Fitzpatrick, so were a lot of the other guys that came to Buffalo. And I'm glad I don't have to make that because I do become friends with them. For me, to sit there and say this guy is horrible, I can't do that. There's times in the years past that I could have said that and wanted to say that, but I still couldn't do it because you know what? They're not paying me to abuse people. Even on my radio show sometimes, I go, 'You know, they don't pay me enough money to sit there and really abuse everything the Buffalo Bills are doing,' even though there are some times where I just want to bite into it and tell it like it is. But I can't. EJ has all the potential, he just needs to step up and do it."
Q: Are you happy with the job Doug Marrone has done through his first season and now three games into the preseason in year two?
JK: "Well you really don't know. We really didn't see much last year. Just like Marv Levy has said in the past, 'You're only as good as your quarterback is.' That's the bottom line. You know that. You watch all the teams that are in the playoffs, teams that make it down the road. Look who's behind the center. There's not many teams that make it all the way with an average quarterback. You need a top quarterback if you plan on making it anywhere into the playoffs. So Doug Marrone will only be as good as EJ Manuel takes him."
Q: Jim, you use the word potential. If he's got that potential, if he can make all the throws, Rich [Gannon] has talked about this at length. The importance of coaching that position, developing that position, how important is that for this Bills organization to just get that part of the equation right?
JK: "It's very important because they've struck out so many times in the past with that position. Of course, new general manager picking EJ, there's a lot of pressure on everybody to make sure that this was the right choice. Time will only tell. I just hope it's not what we've seen in the last three games, [that] it's going to be what we're going to see at the beginning of the season and into the season, because you need to start out strong. You need to get a little confidence behind you. Even though they went down the field and scored twice at the end of last week, once the first teamers came out, maybe that's the confidence builder EJ needs. We'll see."