Jim Kelly came to Buffalo five seasons ago as a reluctant savior. If he performs in the Super Bowl like he did against the Raiders, he will never be allowed to leave.
Running the Bills perpetual motion offense, Kelly sliced open Los Angeles' confused defense like a biology student dissects his hundredth frog. When it was over, what remained of the Raiders had lost 51-3 in the AFC Championship."Not in my wildest dreams," replied Kelly when asked if he thought the Bills would pile up so many points on a Raiders defense that was ranked second in the AFC this season. "We just went out and executed and got some breaks and turnovers that helped us."
Gee whiz, Jim, it sounds so simple. In reality, Kelly, who mastered the run-and-shoot when he played for the USFL's Houston Gamblers, has found another offense he likes: the no-huddle.
Kelly has blossomed this season when the Bills realized he plays best when he flies by the seat of his pants. Working on the success they saw Kelly have working the two-minute drill in comeback victories over the past three seasons, the Bills coaches decided to let him try it all the time.
The results: The Bills led the NFL with 428 points this season and have now scored 44 and 51 points in their two playoff games.
Kelly calls the plays in the Bills no-huddle offense "but, and there's a big but, (offensive coordinator) Ted Marchibroda . . . does an excellent job not only teaching myself, but (backup quarterbacks) Frank (Reich) and Gale (Gilbert) in the meetings."
When the game begins, however, it's Kelly who has to make the decisions.
"The key is the quarterback," center Kent Hull said. "He's the guy that sits back there and says, `OK, here they come.' He's in total control of the offense. With the personnel that we have on the field, we're just as strong running as we are passing."
"He sees those substitutions go in and he immediately goes to what the advantage is to our side," Hull continued.
Kelly wasn't always that strong a player when it came to making snap judgments. Early in his Bills career, he threw untimely interceptions into the middle of zone defenses and panicked under pressure too often.
But wide receiver Andre Reed said that has changed.
"One thing he has learned real well this season is (to be) more patient back there," Reed said. "He is not erratic back there like he used to be."