NFL Nation: Jim Kelly

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CANTON, Ohio -- The Buffalo Bills finally had their night.

[+] EnlargeJim Kelly
AP Photo/David RichardHall of Famers Jim Kelly and Andre Reed connected on one last reception at Reed's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Following an arduous offseason that saw franchise icon Jim Kelly diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer and the death of owner Ralph Wilson days later, the induction Saturday of Andre Reed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a long-awaited and much-needed celebration of the franchise's golden era.

In front of thousands of Bills fans who made the three-hour trip from Western New York and filled the stands at Fawcett Stadium, Reed captivated the crowd with a tribute to the ailing Kelly, who sat nearby on stage.

"I was known for my toughness, going across the middle, making that catch, breaking tackles," Reed said. "But the toughest individual I've ever met in my life was Jim Kelly, No. 12."

Following his acceptance speech, Reed turned to Kelly on the middle of the stage and caught one more pass from his former quarterback. The two then hugged on the front of the stage in front of Reed's newly unveiled bust -- nearly 20 years after their final game together.

It was a fitting, emotional moment.

"Jim, you have endured a lot in your life. The loss of a son and, most recently, your battle with cancer. You're an inspiration to all of those you touch," Reed said during his speech. "I'm honored to call you my teammate, my friend, and my family member and, now, my fellow Hall of Famer. I love you, man."

Saturday night brought a sense of completion to the Bills squad that went to four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 1990s. Reed was joined on stage by four of his teammates already with gold jackets -- Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, defensive end Bruce Smith and receiver James Lofton -- and was presented by Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy.

The flood of Bills greats in Canton, Ohio, was joined by a crowd that made it clear where they stood on the franchise's uncertain future.

Reed thanked Wilson for being "the greatest owner in sports history" and then added a line that drew some of the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd, including some who held a "Thank you, Mr. Wilson" banner from the upper reaches of the bleachers.

"And, oh yeah, the Bills will stay in Buffalo, too," Reed said.

At a time when the franchise's future is uncertain and Kelly's is fighting cancer, Saturday night gave Bills fans not only a chance to honor Reed, but also to take center stage in the NFL's annual celebration of its history.

This was the Bills' night.
Representatives from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, which is treating former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly for oral cancer, released the following statement Tuesday:
NEW YORK -- Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly will start chemotherapy and radiation treatments targeting cancer cells in his maxillary sinus and adjacent tissues next week, Peter D. Costantino, MD, executive director of Lenox Hill Hospital’s New York Head & Neck Institute, reported today.

Mr. Kelly will be receiving a single dose of chemotherapy at Lenox Hill Hospital, along with concurrent daily radiation therapy treatments. The chemotherapy will be repeated as an outpatient in approximately three weeks and six weeks. The radiation therapy will be a six-week regimen carried out at the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute's Center for Advanced Medicine in Lake Success, NY, which is home to a new $47 million, 30,000-square-foot radiation medicine facility that opened earlier this year.

"At the conclusion of chemotherapy and radiation, we will wait two-to-three months to determine the status of his cancer before deciding if surgery will be necessary," said Dr. Costantino, a leading authority on cranial base tumor surgery and craniofacial reconstruction.

Dr. Costantino noted that Mr. Kelly has not been previously treated with chemotherapy or radiation, so he said he is confident that this current treatment regimen has a good chance of successfully impacting the cancer. "As I have stated previously, Jim Kelly’s condition remains very treatable and potentially curable,” he said. “Even if chemotherapy and radiation are not successful in eradicating the cancer, his skull-base tumor remains operable."
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn't have any great personal memories from his playing days against former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.

As an outside linebacker for the Chicago Bears, Rivera had only five tackles and no sacks in two games against Kelly during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But like many who are pulling for the Hall of Fame quarterback as he battles oral cancer, Rivera remembers how tough Kelly was.

"A very tough guy,'' Rivera said last week at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Fla. "To see a guy get hit, get knocked down and get back up is always impressive. In my era -- shoot, it sounds like I'm old now -- but in my era you looked at certain guys that had that swagger about them.

"John Elway used to get knocked down, get up, straighten up his head and he'd walk back to the huddle. Jim Kelly, I can remember the same thing watching him in those [four] Super Bowls. ... You never let 'em see you're hurt.''

Rivera knows Kelly, 54, is hurting now. He hopes the toughness Kelly showed as a player gets him through the cancer.

Hearing of Kelly's illness also is a reminder that there are many from his playing days (1984-1992) that are going through medical issues, including former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.

McMahon admitted last year he was going through early stages of dementia believed to be the result of head trauma suffered during his career.

"We're now at an age, I'm now at that age, guys that I played with are getting ill,'' said Rivera, 52. "Guys that I played with are getting hip replacements, knee replacements, shoulder replacements ... I don't want to say it's scary, but it is.

"So when you see a guy like Jim Kelly [and] Jim McMahon struggle with health issues, it's a scary thing.''
Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is battling a recurrence of oral cancer and has traveled to New York City for treatment.

Kelly was initially scheduled for surgery, but that procedure was canceled Wednesday.

“The cancer is in areas that surgery cannot successfully eradicate,” Kelly’s wife Jill wrote on her Facebook page.

Dr. Peter Costantino, directing Kelly’s treatment at Lenox Hill Hospital, said in a statement that Kelly’s condition “remains very treatable and potentially curable.” He will soon undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

The NFL world and fans across social media have offered their support to Kelly and his family. Earlier in the week, the hashtag #GetWellJimKelly trended nationwide. Along with #PrayersforJK, the hashtag continues to generate positive engagement on Twitter.

Here's a sampling of the love Kelly has received via social media:

Is this year of the receiver at HOF?

January, 30, 2014
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Is this the year that the Hall of Fame elects three wide receivers?

That's what former Indianapolis Colts general manager and current ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian believes.

Receivers Marvin Harrison, Tim Brown and Andre Reed are finalist for the Hall of Fame. Each finalist must receive 80 percent of the votes.

Polian was general manager of the Colts when Harrison played with the team and GM of the Buffalo Bills when Reed was catching touchdown passes from Jim Kelly.

Reed is a finalist for the eighth straight year. Brown was among the first cut last year when finalist were reduced from 17 to 12. This is the fifth year that he's been eligible.

"I believe this ought to be the year of the receiver," Polian said. "All three deserve to go in. Get it out of the way by doing the right thing. Next year you can get back to electing guards and tackles and there are some seriously deserving defensive players this year in my opinion. It's long overdue for Andre and Tim Brown."

Click here for profiles on the other Hall of Fame finalists.

Jim Kelly battling cancer of the jaw

June, 3, 2013
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Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly says he has been diagnosed with cancer in his upper jaw bone and will have surgery on Friday.

Kelly is suffering from squamous cell carcinoma, but he has recently undergone tests to show that the cancer is isolated in his jaw and has not spread to other parts of his body.

"The past couple of weeks have been difficult for me," Kelly said. "Because of the nature of social media, I thought it would be best to share with everyone what has been going on with my health."
It has been a whirlwind offseason for new Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley. He spent the past several months on the road scouting for the NFL draft, and now Whaley is settling into his new position this week as Buffalo's general manager.

Whaley was officially promoted from within to take over for former general manager Buddy Nix and took some time Thursday to discuss his new position with the AFC East blog. Whaley has a big job ahead. The Bills have not been to the playoffs since 1999, which is currently the NFL's longest playoff drought.

Turning the franchise around starts at quarterback, which is a position Buffalo hasn’t had a long-term solution for since the days of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. This year the Bills have three players vying for that spot: rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel and veterans Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson. Whaley said he’s not afraid to go into the season with a rookie quarterback if that's how the situation plays out in training camp.

"My philosophy on quarterbacks has always been the same," Whaley told the AFC East blog. "The best guy plays."

There are also new challenges ahead for Whaley that he didn't have to worry about as assistant general manager. One of the biggest issues facing the Bills is the pending contract dispute involving Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, who is unhappy about getting the franchise tag. This will be Whaley's first big challenge as GM and a situation to keep an eye on with the Bills this summer.

“We want to keep our good players and Jairus is obviously a good player,” Whaley said. “We have an organizational goal not to negotiate in the media and want to keep it that way. But we will continue to negotiate with Jairus.”

The New England Patriots -- lead by coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady -- have been the mountain every AFC East team has tried to climb for the past dozen years. The Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets consistently discuss closing the gap with New England.

Whaley spent 10 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and knows what it is like to consistently contend and win championships. Whaley added it’s his ultimate goal to eventually make the Bills the “Beasts of the East.”
The Buffalo Bills made one of the most surprising picks of the NFL draft by selecting former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel at No. 16 overall Thursday night.

Should the Bills double up at the position and draft former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib or USC's Matt Barkley Saturday for insurance?

The fourth round of the NFL draft begins Saturday and there is still tremendous value available at quarterback. Nassib and Barkley were widely considered second-round prospects entering the draft and remain on the board. Buffalo has the eighth pick Saturday in the fourth round (No. 105 overall) and could have a shot at one or both of these quarterbacks.

New Bills head coach Doug Marrone is very familiar with Nassib after coaching him at Syracuse. Nassib knows Buffalo’s offensive system well and could provide a solid insurance policy if Manuel is a bust. Barkley has some physical limitations but plenty of experience playing in a pro-style offense at USC. The Bills heavily scouted Nassib and Barkley and staged private workouts with both quarterbacks this offseason.

Drafting another quarterback could invite controversy. But the situation can pay dividends if handled properly.

The best recent example is the Washington Redskins last year drafting first-round quarterback Robert Griffin III and backup Kirk Cousins in the fourth round. Some criticized Washington for doubling up at quarterback. But the Redskins' brass wisely calmed the situation by immediately declaring Griffin the starter and Cousins the backup. Now, Washington has one of the best young quarterback combos in the NFL.

Buffalo hasn't had a long-term franchise quarterback since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired in 1996. The Bills hope Manuel is the answer. But boosting their odds for success by drafting Nassib or Barkley Saturday is not a bad idea.
Most experts agree that the NFL draft's most talented quarterback class was in 1983. Three Hall of Fame signal-callers came from that group in the first round, and ESPN's "30 for 30" series did a tremendous job documenting it Tuesday night.

A total of six quarterbacks were taken in the first round, with four AFC East teams drafting the position. Half of the division landed Hall of Famers and the other half whiffed.

Here is a recap of the first round of the 1983 draft for the AFC East:
  • The Bills drafted Jim Kelly No. 14 overall. He went on to lead Buffalo to four Super Bowls and became the franchise's all-time leading passer. The Bills dominated the AFC East and won the AFC from 1990-93 but came up short each time in the Super Bowl. Kelly is a staple in Buffalo and still lives there.
  • The Patriots drafted Tony Eason one pick after Kelly, at No. 15 overall. His career highlight was helping to lead New England to the Super Bowl during the 1985 season. But Eason was mostly a bust and only reached double figures in touchdown passes three times. He would have an injury-plagued career and posted a 28-23 record in as a starter in right seasons.
  • The Jets drafted Ken O'Brien No. 24 overall. Jets fans were disappointed that the team passed on Dan Marino for O'Brien -- and they were correct in their assessment. But O'Brien had a decent career that included two Pro Bowls, and he was actually 8-7 head-to-head against Marino during their AFC East rivalry in the 1980s and early 1990s. But O'Brien could never come close to matching Marino's overall numbers and victories. O'Brien was 50-59-1 as a starter in his career.
  • Fortunately for the Dolphins, Miami landed Marino at No. 27, the second-to-last pick of the first round. Marino went to a very good Dolphins team and a Hall of Fame coach in Don Shula. The pair turned out to be the second-winningest quarterback-coach combination of all time, trailing only New England's Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Marino's super-quick release and arm was one of the best ever. But like Kelly, Marino never won a Super Bowl.
  • The old Baltimore Colts were also in the AFC East in 1983. They drafted quarterback John Elway No. 1 overall, and you know the rest: Elway did not want to play for Baltimore and threatened to play baseball. As a result, the Colts traded Elway to the Denver Broncos, where he went to five Super Bowls, won two titles and had the most accomplished career of this famed quarterback class.

It's mind-boggling to think of the possibilities with every AFC East team drafting a quarterback in 1983.

What if the Jets took Marino? What if the Bills passed on Kelly and he went to New England one pick later?

The history of the AFC East would've been entirely different.
The "Madden NFL 25" cover vote is now on in SportsNation.

This year, there is a new-school and old-school competition.

In the new-school vote, there are some tough assignments for some AFC West players.

San Diego’s Antonio Gates is a No. 16 seed. He goes against top seed Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco. Oakland’s Carson Palmer is a No. 15 seed and he is facing No. 2 seed, NFL MVP Adrian Peterson. Denver’s Von Miller is a No. 6 seed, but he faces the popular Victor Cruz of the Giants, a No. 11 seed. Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles is a No. 6 seed and he is facing Darrelle Revis of the Jets, a No. 11 seed.

In the old-school vote, this one will upset some folks. Marcus Allen is representing the Chiefs and not the Raiders. The Hall of Fame running back played 11 years for the Raiders and five years for the Chiefs. He is a No. 6 seed and faces No. 11 Tedy Bruschi of the Patriots.

Oakland's Tim Brown is a No. 6 seed and he faces Chad Johnson of the Bengals. Denver’s Terrell Davis is a No. 10 seed and faces Buffalo’s Jim Kelly, a No. 7 seed. San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson is a No. 10 seed and he faces Randall Cunningham of the Eagles.

Do Wonderlic scores matter?

February, 21, 2013
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The NFL combine is upon us. That means this is the one time of year people focus on the scores and merits of the Wonderlic test.

The Wonderlic is a timed test (12 minutes) that asks 50 questions aimed at measuring a players smarts or cognitive ability. With NFL prospects coming from so many different backgrounds, the merits of the test have been hotly debated.

Based on these results (at right), the only conclusion to be reached is that the Wonderlic doesn't mean much on the football field. The irony of Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is struggling in Buffalo, having the highest documented score for a quarterback and Jim Kelly, the best quarterback in Bills history, having one of the lowest is telling. Other low Wonderlic scores for non-quarterbacks includes Ray Lewis and Randy Moss, who are first-ballot Hall of Famers. A.J. Green, Frank Gore, Chris Johnson, Sebastian Janikowski and Patrick Peterson also have been to Pro Bowls.

Physical ability trumps the aptitude to take a 50-question test in the NFL. The Wonderlic also does not account for "football intelligence," which is an innate knowledge of the game that comes from playing experience and film study.

Expect there to be discussions from the combine this week of who scored high and who scored low on the Wonderlic test. But take most of it with a grain of salt.
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The first four NFL quarterbacks drafted in 2012 have already won starting jobs as rookies.

Seattle's Russell Wilson, third-round choice from Wisconsin, has a chance to make it five of the top six. He'll get a chance to work with recently cleared receiver Sidney Rice when the Seahawks visit Kansas City for their third exhibition game, set for Friday night.

We can excuse Denver's Brock Osweiler, the only second-round quarterback this year, for failing to crack the lineup. He'll get time to develop behind Peyton Manning.

"What it tells you that this is probably the most talented class since the '83 Marino-O'Brien-Kelly class," ESPN's Bill Polian said on NFL Live.

But there was also a word of caution from Polian, the former Indianapolis Colts exec, regarding the current crop of rookies: "Let's take a look three years from now. Then we'll know."

Recent history backs up the cautionary tone.

Three of the first four quarterbacks from the 2010 class have lost their starting jobs (Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy). St. Louis' Sam Bradford is the exception among the four. The sixth quarterback drafted that year, fifth-rounder John Skelton, could start in Arizona. None of the eight quarterbacks drafted later than Skelton holds a starting job.

The first five quarterbacks drafted in 2011 are starters now that Jake Locker, chosen eighth overall by Tennessee, has ascended into the Titans' lineup over Matt Hasselbeck. Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton are the others. Locker, Gabbert and Ponder have the most to prove.

San Francisco backup Colin Kaepernick was the sixth quarterback drafted in 2011, ahead of Ryan Mallett, Ricky Stanzi, T.J. Yates, Nathan Enderle, Tyrod Taylor and Greg McElroy. Kaepernick might be starting by now if Alex Smith hadn't put together a career-best season.

Twenty-three of the named 32 starters for 2012 entered the NFL as first-round draft choices. Dalton and Drew Brees were second-rounders. Matt Schaub, like Wilson, was a third-round pick. Tom Brady (sixth), Ryan Fitzpatrick (seventh) and Matt Cassel (seventh) were late-round picks. Tony Romo was the only one undrafted.


Is there some rival gamesmanship going from a former Buffalo Bills quarterback?

Buffalo Hall of Famer Jim Kelly openly questioned the New York Jets and their high-profile acquisition of Tim Tebow. New York's trade with the Denver Broncos to get Tebow has made major headlines in the NFL this offseason. Some feel Tebow, who went 7-4 as a starter last season and won a playoff game, will supplant Jets starter Mark Sanchez at some point this season, and could cause a team-wide controversy.

Add Kelly among the list of Jets and Tebow doubters.

"I gotta be honest: I don't know what they really were thinking," Kelly told the NFL Network on Thursday. "Mark Sanchez is a quarterback who's going to be sitting there every single game if he plays bad, and No. 1, you know Jets fans -- they're going to start booing."

Kelly is not alone in his assessment. Many feel Sanchez took a step back last season, and adding Tebow only adds to the pressure to have a bounce-back season.

Kelly said both Jets quarterbacks have potential, but he doesn’t feel they should be on the same team. Kelly made no secret that his rooting interest clearly is with the Bills.

"I hope there's so much turmoil during (Jets) training camp," Kelly said.

Final Word: Super Bowl XLVI

February, 4, 2012
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Super Bowl XLVI Final Word: Patriots | Giants

Five nuggets of knowledge about Super Bowl XLVI:

Home sweet road: The New York Giants have won six straight playoff games on the road or at neutral sites dating to 2007, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Eli Manning has been the quarterback for all six of them, and his six career postseason wins away from home tie him for the record with four other quarterbacks, including the New England Patriots' Tom Brady. (The others are Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach and Joe Montana, so not a bad list.) Manning's ability to remain cool under all kinds of pressure has been well documented, but his record in hostile or neutral environments in postseason games offers yet another example.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PresswireEli Manning has a 7-3 record in the postseason.
You again? Manning and Brady are the third pair of quarterbacks to face off in multiple Super Bowls. The Cowboys' Troy Aikman and the Bills' Jim Kelly met in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII. Aikman won both. The Steelers' Bradshaw faced the Cowboys' Staubach in Super Bowls X and XIII. Bradshaw won both. Brady's hoping to buck history and pull off a split with Manning, who beat him in Super Bowl XLII.

Hot at the right time: The Giants are the third team in history to reach the Super Bowl after failing to win at least 10 games in the regular season (not counting strike-shortened seasons). The previous two were the 2008 Arizona Cardinals and the 1979 Rams. Each of those teams lost its Super Bowl, so a Giants win would make them the first Super Bowl champion to enter the playoffs with fewer than 10 wins. They are also the first team to reach the Super Bowl after being outscored by their opponents in the regular season. The Giants scored 394 points and allowed 400 on their way to their 9-7 regular-season record. Those 2008 Cardinals (plus 1) and 1979 Rams (plus 14) were the teams with the worst point differential in Super Bowl history until this year.

Peyton's place: Eli Manning is playing the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where his brother Peyton Manning has established himself as an all-time great quarterback with the Colts. Peyton had a head start on Eli and has fashioned a brilliant Hall of Fame career, but little brother's playoff numbers stack up with big brother's. Peyton Manning is 9-10 all time in postseason games with a 63.1 completion percentage and a 29-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Eli Manning is 7-3 in the postseason with a completion percentage of 59.8 and a TD-INT ratio of 16-8. If Eli throws three touchdowns on Sunday, it would give him 11 touchdown passes this postseason, which would tie the record for a single postseason set by Montana in 1989 and equaled by Kurt Warner in 2008.

Tough guys: According to ESPN Stats & Information's "Next Level" stats, the pass-catchers in this game are very difficult to tackle after they catch the ball. The stat they use is "yards after contact," which differs from "yards after catch." Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who's been struggling with an ankle injury since the AFC Championship Game, led the league with 290 yards after first post-catch contact. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was second with 245. Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker was third with 242 yards, and Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was fourth with 231.

Hey, at least Harbaugh threw no punches

October, 17, 2011
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When San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh challenged a first-quarter play that was not subject for review Sunday, cameras caught Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz mouthing what appeared to be, "Know the rules, Harbaugh!"

Good thing Schwartz didn't call Harbaugh a baby or question his toughness, as former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly did back when Harbaugh was playing.

Back then, Harbaugh reportedly tracked down and punched Kelly, suffering a hand injury that sidelined him for weeks. Kelly denied punches were thrown, but clearly something happened.

"I regret throwing the punch, but I felt I had to do something since my toughness was being questioned," Harbaugh said at the time. "I regret that I have a crack in one of my bones in my hand."

The admittedly over-the-top handshake/back slap combo Harbaugh unleashed on Schwartz following the 49ers' 25-19 victory Sunday did not seem particularly calculated, even if it did violate unwritten rules for postgame comportment among competing coaches.

The 49ers' first-year head coach has a certain, uh, competitive zeal, shall we say. Niners fans have to love the guy. He's passionate, bright, capable and leading the team's revival well ahead of any realistic schedule.

Regarding the postgame incident Sunday, I contend Harbaugh handled the situation without sufficient grace, but Schwartz handled it worse -- much worse. Those keeping score should add this Harbaugh encounter to the list Ernest Tolden of ESPN Stats & Information put together.

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