On how important Bruce Smith was to the success of the team:
Number one, I always thank God every day Bruce Smith was on my team, and not on any other team, let alone the AFC East. Bruce was just a very dominant person. To be honest with you, he could have been more of a distraction if he had gone full speed in practice all of the time, because he was that dominant of a player. He was a guy that, of course, everybody on our team admired as far as his talent, and they appreciated his not going full speed all of the time because he would have screwed up our practices.
On what Smith was like as a person and as a teammate:
Bruce was a guy that wouldn't always say a lot all the time, but when he did, he exploded. He was a guy that, to be honest with you, was more of a leader by example on the football field. When he did speak in the locker room, I pretty much can't tell you, or you could not print some of the things he said, but I'll put it this way: Bruce Smith was 100% football player. He was one of those guys when people talk about being the best, ‘I want to be the best, I want to do this, I want to do that.' Bruce Smith was all about wanting to be the best possible football player he could be he wanted to be the best that ever played, and pretty much, as I look at, even though he was a teammate of mine, I think he definitely is one of the best defensive ends ever to play the game, and he knew it. He shared it with everybody, which we all know, but you have to know Bruce personally, he's a guy that any person in the NFL would love to have as a teammate. Once the kickoff went, he was all about total domination. He wanted to be the guy that made the difference in the game. He was a difference-maker not only on the field, but at times when we needed somebody to stand up and go crazy in the locker room, Bruce was one of those guys that could do that.
Kelly went in-depth on Bruce Smith as a leader.
On if he ever felt sorry for the opposing quarterback, because they had to play against Smith:
I guess, I didn't feel sorry for them, but they had that look that when you were facing him that he was going to get to you sooner or later. I didn't care who it was. The majority, I would say 90-95 percent of the time, he was going to get you a couple times during the course of that game and other times, just watching film, and sometimes watching practice film, I'd see him when we had a breakout. I was one of those guys that when I, as a quarterback, had a little break I would watch the one-on-one pass rush or watch the two-on-two when the defense would go get the offense. Of course I wanted to see how my guys would do, I wanted to see how my tackles were doing, and any time Bruce would step up, it would be interesting to see if anybody could even put a hand on him.
On if he ever talked to other quarterbacks about what it felt like to be sacked by Smith:
Trust me, he (Dan Marino) knew and I knew he talked to Elway and people like that, they always knew when they played against Bruce, because number one, very rarely was Bruce ever single-handedly blocked. Very seldom that ever happened, and if it did, it was probably a mistake by the offensive line calling the wrong protection, and I know Dan, trust me, he always talked about Bruce, any time we were ever together. He sees Bruce, they always get on each other about it, because he realized that Bruce could be a one-man wrecking machine.
On Smith's physical abilities:
Well, he started out as a pudgy-fat little guy. I remember when I first came to Buffalo and I saw Bruce, and I saw that he was over 300 pounds, and I think he realized he wasn't going to reach his full potential unless he got in better shape. He realized that there were players out there that were probably in better shape, and once that happened, Bruce was a guy that was pretty much athletic ability, there are not many people that can do some of the things he did. I mean, in his last year, correct me if I'm wrong, but he got down to 260-265 pounds, and you get a guy like that can run 4.8 in the 40 and is as quick as a cat like him, going against some of the bigger guys, it wasn't even a match. You almost had to double-team him all of the time. The other thing I always say every time I speak, and Bruce's name comes up, I always thank God every day that Bruce Smith was on my team because I would not have wanted to play against him, especially if he was an AFC East opponent, twice a year sometimes. When we played the Dolphins, it was three times a year sometimes. I remember one of you mentioning Marino having to face him. He did have a pretty good guy in Richmond Webb, he did a pretty good job against him every once in awhile, but you always know as a quarterback, you knew which way you wanted your line to slide, and that was wherever Bruce Smith lined up.
On if he remembered the 1988 AFC Championship game, during which Smith got hurt:
Honestly, I don't recall, I just know that Bruce, when it comes to the Hall of Fame, it's a no-brainer, you don't have to blink an eye. I always mention Deacon Jones when we're at the Hall of Fame, we go, ‘Deacon, you realize that when Bruce becomes a Pro Football Hall-of-Famer, you're going to be the second-greatest defensive end ever to play the game.' He always laughs about it, but I jack him all of the time about it, and now, when Bruce does get into the Hall of Fame, I'll jack Deacon even more. Me and Deacon have a good rapport, he's not sure how many quarterbacks he likes, but I've been one of the guys he likes. I'm able to mess with him a little bit more than most people, especially quarterbacks.
On if he knew that Smith had a robe designed for when he broke the sack record:
No, I didn't. You mean, he pulled a…who else did that, what that Chad Johnson? I never did know that, and do you know that as a fact? Does it surprise me? No. But I would never, to be honest with you, I can't see him doing that. Well, but it this way, Thurman, me, and Andre did not know about it. I tell you what, he will know that we do know now.
On the case for Andre Reed to be in the Hall of Fame:
The bottom line is, when you think about it, and I'm not going to mention names, but I talked to a voter at Bills training camp, and I said, ‘what is the criteria for a wide receiver in the National Football League?' And he said, ‘what do you mean?' And I go, ‘well, to be a wide receiver in the National Football League, think about it, if you're going to think about a Pro Football Hall-of-Famer, what are some of the examples of a great wide receiver?' Longevity – remember, you have to play in the NFL against guys going across the middle, you have to play against guys like Steve Atwater, Ronnie Lott, people like that. Longevity, Andre Reed played for, I think, 17 years. And aren't wide receivers supposed to catch the football? Isn't that one of the criteria? I think Andre Reed has nine hundred and fifty, sixty, something like that catches, which is pretty good. Pro Bowls, he made, what? Seven straight Pro Bowls, I don't know what the years were, but he made seven straight Pro Bowls. What about consistency? Remember, a wide receiver has to be able to do this year in and year out.
Andre Reed was Jim Kelly's go-to receiver through the 90s.
He has to be able to go across the middle, and he's got to be able to do this every single year and stay healthy doing it. Andre Reed played 17 years in the NFL, which for anybody, what's the average in the NFL – three, four years, something like that? Andre played like 16, 17 years and had nine hundred and fifty-sixty catches. Seven straight Pro Bowls. He averaged 70 catches a year. If that's not the criteria, if those aren't the credentials to get yourself in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, something is sadly wrong with this league, something is sadly wrong with the voting system out there, because the wide receiver is supposed to catch the football, score touchdowns, be a difference-maker on the field, and the bottom line is, you talk to anybody who played against Andre Reed, going across the middle, there's not a better receiver in the NFL that had a better run after catch than Andre Reed. He might not have been the best route-runner, but I tell you, one-on-one, his strength, his run-after-catch ability was unmatched. I think he's definitely in the top 3-4 with run after catch, but guys, longevity, catches, consistency, Andre Reed has all of those, and if he's not a Hall-of-Famer, then something is wrong with the Hall of Fame.
On Reed's performances in big games:
Well, the bottom line is, just like most receivers you see nowadays, you have Terrrell Owens, you have Randy Moss, you have some of the guys that love to talk a good game and get out there and Andre Reed wanted the ball. You hear all of the complaints, even Anquan Boldin said recently that he felt like he was able to get out there are play, these wide receivers want to be the best. Andre Reed on that particular day, he was where he was supposed to be and he wanted to win, he had a never-say-never attitude. Yeah there are times that me and him spat, but we both wanted to be the best. Andre wanted the football every single play. I'll tell you what, even going away from that game, because he was one of the big differences in that comeback game against the Oilers, because he never died, he never gave up, he continued to go, and momentum just kept everybody going. And this is something I don't think anybody knows about Andre, when we were in the no-huddle, I would call out the play, I would always say ‘eight, eight, eight,' the formation, I would get the protection, and then I would give the play. Every single time that I called a pass play, Andre's favorite words coming out of his mouth were, ‘right here, bro, right here.' Every time. And the reason I'm bringing that up is because of the 15 years I played with Andre, 15, 16, what ever it was, every time I played with Andre, he would say that every single time I called a play. He would say, ‘right here, bro, right here.' He always would want the ball.
The reason I'm bringing it up is because we had a flag football game against the Miami Dolphins for the benefit of my son's foundation about three, four, five years ago, it was played right up here at the University of Buffalo stadium. I know Sal and some of you guys probably covered it. It was Dan Marino and a lot of the Miami Dolphins pros against the Buffalo Bills. Well, even though I had been retired six, seven years, I called our old plays. It was me, Steve Tasker, Andre, a couple other wide receivers were in the huddle, and we not allowed to do the no-huddle in that type of game, because we told the Dolphins and Marino and all of those guys that we wouldn't do the no-huddle. Well, I would call the play, and the first time we were in the huddle, and I call the play, and Andre, we broke the huddle, and he said, ‘Right here, bro.' Steve Tasker flipped out and he said, ‘stop, that's enough. I heard that for 15 years playing with you with the Bills. This is a flag football game Andre, don't be saying that any more!' And I started laughing so hard that I could hardly call the game because Andre went into that flag football game exactly how he prepared himself for the NFL, by breaking the huddle of a flag football game with his old quarterback and saying, ‘right here, bro, right here.' So it just goes to show what kind of competitor Andre Reed is.
On Mr. Wilson's decision to keep the Bills in Buffalo and his candidacy for the Hall of Fame:
This is another one, and the thing is, even if I was not a Buffalo Bill, I would look at what Mr. Wilson was able to do, it's the 50th anniversary since the birth of the AFL, and a guy that just turned 90 years old, and a guy that has meant not only a lot to this organization, but a lot to the NFL. I know you guys know some of it. The things he did with Art Modell, he was one of his closest friends, and Ralph, voting against the move from Cleveland to Baltimore, moving it out, and that pretty much was a big blow to Art Modell, and I don't even know if they're friends anymore. But the bottom line is for Mr. Wilson, and if you're a Buffalo media guy, you understand this: Mr. Wilson, 15-20 years ago, could easily have taken the big bucks and moved this team, or wanted this team to go somewhere else, but no, he was committed to making sure this team stayed in Buffalo, NY. He has had this franchise here since day one, he's never moved it anywhere, and there is talk all of the time about where is this team going down the road. His legacy, Mr. Wilson's all about making sure that the Buffalo Bills stay in Buffalo, NY. For that, in itself, and what he's done for the NFL, and being so committed to the NFL and the Buffalo, NY, that alone entitles him to be a Pro Football Hall-of-Famer. You look at any owner, I don't care, I see some of the owners that have just been in the league 10-15 years, they talk about, this guy has done everything he possibly can to make sure the Buffalo Bills stay in Western New York, and we all know about how the economy is, we all know about the big bucks that are out there now, he could have easily gotten rid of this team 15-20 years ago, but he has continued to make sure that it stays right here in Western New York, and it's one of the founding members of the AFL back in the day and he's still to this point, he's not only proud of what he's able to accomplish there, but being proud that he's kept this team in Western New York for years.
On the thought that anyone, not just Reed, could have put up big numbers in the Bills system:
I guarantee you, whoever said those comments, has never played football. Maybe played Pop Warner. The bottom line is what is a receiver supposed to do? That's what bores me. When they talk about a system, ok. They're in a passing system. God bless them, that's what you want to do as a wide receiver. You want to be in system that throws the football. Do you know a lot of wide receivers that are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame that have 200 catches? Not many. You, as, quarterback, the quarterbacks should have big numbers. Most of them, not all of them, but most of the will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You want to be in a system where you can utilize specific people's talents. The reason that you're able to run a system like the K-gun offense or the three wide receiver offense is because you have the people on your side to do that. Do you think I would have ran the no-huddle offense if I didn't have Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, James Lofton? Heck no. That's why we ran that system, because we had great wide receivers in order to do that. We wanted to be successful; we wanted to win football games. If we weren't, then we would've run something else, and we probably would have never won four AFC Championship games and went to four Super Bowls. The reason we did that was because of the players we had on our side of the football. Why not utilize a guy like Andre Reed because of his talent? Why not throw him the football? Why not have him be a difference-maker in a football game? We all have our good games, we all have our bad games, but I tell you what, consistency, a guy who went out on the football field and wanted to be the best, and just week in and week out, year after year, he wanted the football, and he's another guy, that I was glad he was on my football team, because he made me a lot better quarterback.
On Reed's physical abilities:
Well, when I decided to take over the no-huddle, when Marv agreed this was something we needed to do. I knew what Andre's strengths were, I knew that he was a lot better receiver inside than the outside, even though he could have been a great receiver outside, I knew by putting him on the inside, and I knew what his workout regimen was, I knew how much he worked out in the offseason, I knew how much he wanted to be great, putting him inside, I knew there was not many defensive backs that could cover him one-on-one. He always had to have help from the linebacker on the inside or a deep safety double-covered him. They always knew where Andre Reed was going to be because he was my bread and butter. The guy caught 650 catches or whatever from me. I just knew that once you got him the football, he can do magic with it and that's why when I talked earlier about his, the great things that he's done, run after catch was one of the most explosive things with Andre Reed that I could see because I knew throwing him a five- or six-yard pass and he could turn it into a 30-, 40-, 50-yard touchdown or a big run. That's what quarterbacks want to do, that's what I'm trying to get our team now to do. Get the football to the guy that can run after they catch the football. Don't always make it a 15, 18 yard come back square, get him the ball earlier, let them do their magic. That's what Andre Reed was best at, was doing his magic after he caught the football.
On Reed performing in the years that there wasn't a dominant receiver lining up on the other side:
You're exactly right. You know what? There are so many things you can say positively about Andre Reed, the reasons he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he was a guy that when he was double-covered, he still was able to get open. I always say, I think he was one of the greatest ever to play the inside position at wide receiver. The thing is, he made things happen. You think I would have thrown him 650 passes if he was just an average receiver. Yeah, he had Trumaine (Johnson), he had Chris Burkett, you had Billy Brooks, and Billy Brooks I think is a great receiver, but you know where your bread is buttered, and I knew if I wanted to be successful as a quarterback, if I wanted to make sure that our team was successful on offense, I knew that number 83 was going to have to be a big part. Even though, there were times we got on each other, I think it made us both better because we both wanted to be the best.
On how special it would be to him if Reed, Smith, and Wilson all joined him in the Hall of Fame someday:
You guys tell me if that's possible. Do I think that should happen? Do I think that Ralph should have been in a couple years ago? You better believe it. I think they're both first-time ballot Hall-of-Famers, but unfortunately, I'm only one person, I've played with the guys, and if I looked at the credentials that they both have, it definitely warrants them being in this year, but in years past. I know that you can only take so many people, but it would be, oh man, talk about a party. Imagine putting three of those guys in, imagine putting two of those guys in, this could be a great time when Bruce gets in, but I would love to see Mr. Wilson and Andre Reed both get in. Would it happen? It's hard to see that happen. But do they belong in? You better believe it.
On games the Bills wouldn't have won without Reed:
It's kind of funny because I did an interview about two months ago and the guy was going back and asking me about different games, and with all of the concussions I had, as much fun as I had, I can't remember all of those things. But I do remember how key he was to our offense and how some games, just getting him the football. I remember the one, I think it was in overtime, we played at Houston. I threw him a little, an option pass. He catches it and runs down the sideline and scores, and we win the game in overtime. The games he had against the Miami Dolphins, the games he had, just some of the things he's done, for me to pinpoint one particular game is hard to do, but he's done so many things, it's hard to say just about one.
On Rod Woodson's candidacy:
Again, he's one of those guys that as a quarterback, you knew not to go inside. We had a very successful game against him when we played with Don Beebe because I knew that there were some things that Rod couldn't do, but there's not many things he couldn't do. He was a dominant force. There were times where, going into a game plan, if you knew he was hindered by a little injury or something, you might go after him a little bit more, but trust me, the majority of the time, you knew where Rod Woodson was going, and it depended on who he was covering, you would probably go the opposite way. A lot of times, to be honest with you guys, I had James Lofton, I had Don Beebe, and I had Andre Reed. I really, the majority of the time, I mostly read the coverages and would go where the defense dictated me to go unless I knew that Andre Reed was covered one-on-one or James Lofton was singled out on a defensive back because I thought that I might be able to take advantage, but when it was Rod Woodson, there were seldom times I would say, ‘ok, I'm going to go with it.' If it was a crucial time in the game, I might go his way because of the type of player that he was. He was a dominant force.
On Kurt Warner's possible Hall-of-Fame candidacy:
You never really need the win, of course, I can speak to that because I never won a Super Bowl. You look at the stats they put up, you look at the style of offense, you look at different things, but more importantly, not just all of the stats, but the leadership ability that the quarterback has. How he handles himself, there are so many intangibles that go into making sure you look at a quarterback for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If he (Warner) wins this (Super Bowl XLIII), then you have to look at what he's done in the years prior to it, and yeah, I think he's definitely a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as I do Donovan McNabb. Even though Donovan has never gotten his team a Super Bowl, he's won so many games, his completion percentage, his touchdown/interception, are some of the best. Those two guys, without even talking about Ben Roethlisberger being a young guy and still having a long way to go. Kurt Warner himself, some of the things he's done, and how he's got there. Me, personally, I think warrants serious consideration.
Kelly said Kurt Warner deserves "serious consideration" for the Hall of Fame.
On if he will be in Tampa for the Super Bowl:
Yeah, I have a lot of business going on, plus I think this is the 23rd that I've taken my five brothers, my dad, and my high school football coach, so we've been going to the Super Bowl for that many years, because it's a good time for the brothers to get together with old pops, my dad spends wintertime in Florida, I got him a nice place down there, and he's bringing one of his buddies and we're all going to the Super Bowl.
On if he has a Super Bowl prediction:
That's tough, guys. Me personally, I would love to see Kurt Warner win one, but also, I'm a Pittsburgh guy, so I have to pull for my Pittsburgh Steelers, and Roethlisberger is a friend of mine, also, but other than the Buffalo Bills, I always pick the black and gold. It's going to be tough. I think too many people that I have talked to are counting the Arizona Cardinals out. I definitely wouldn't do that, because I think they can put points on the board. If they get up on Pittsburgh, I think it might be tough for them to come back, because I don't think that they have, even with Hines Ward, I think he's still going to be a little hindered by his injury. I think it's going to be tough for them if it gets into a shootout, I don't think Pittsburgh can go with them if it's a shootout. But if it's a grinding type of game, maybe you put a couple of extra hits on Fitzgerald coming across the middle to let him now where you're at, I probably would say 27-21 Pittsburgh.
On Dick LeBeau's development of the zone blitz defense:
I remember when it started coming in when we were doing it. You are so intoned to reading defenses and not really looking for the zone. Where you'll rush you're strong side two linebackers, and then all of a sudden you'll drop your nose tackle into zone and drop your defensive end out of what we would call our side end, you don't look for things like that. I think teams are not so much catching on to it, but they're looking for more than we were a few years back. I've always, as a quarterback, personally, it's a lot more complicated when you're trying to study against a 34 than it is a 42 or a 43 defense, because you know you have four down lineman, you know where your blitzes are coming from. It's easier for a quarterback to read than it is a 34, because you can do so many different things. You can rush different individuals and it can definitely screw up an offense.