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Jim Kelly considered a comeback in 1998, per report

The legendary Bills quarterback considered playing for another team after he retired from the Bills.

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Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

According to a recent story by Yahoo! Shutdown Corner writer Eric Edholm, Jim Kelly considered playing for other teams following his retirement from the Buffalo Bills. Edholm dropped the nugget into a story about a fight between the legendary Bills QB and longtime NFL QB Jim Harbaugh. After working for NBC in 1997 as a game analyst, Kelly had the itch to return.

"The Baltimore Ravens needed a quarterback the following season in 1998... So the Ravens discussed two veteran options favored by [former Bills offensive coordinator Ted] Marchibroda, who was entering his third and final year as Ravens head coach: Harbaugh and Kelly.

"Yes, the same Kelly who had retired after getting beaten to a pulp during the 1996 season. After a year off, he was sending out feelers around the league, hinting that he might consider coming back to the NFL if the right situation emerged."


In 1996, Kelly was sacked 37 times in just 13 games at a rate of almost 9% of his dropbacks, the highest in his career. His season ended while taking a beating at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who added three more sacks to his regular season total and knocked him out of the game.

The story goes on to say the Ravens' coaching staff watched tape of both veteran quarterbacks before voting and a split vote went to Harbaugh even with Marchibroda in his corner.

"Kelly had been hurt a lot, had taken a lot of hits that [1996] season," Don Strock, the Ravens' quarterback coach that year, told Shutdown Corner. "I looked at some of those games, and I remember watching the Seattle game vividly. He was just getting killed. I know he's a tough guy, but as you get older you lose your legs a little bit, that quickness in your arm — believe me, as a former player myself, I know."

"He was kind of at that point. It had nothing to do with leadership. You could see he still had that. The guys rallied around him. But he was at the end of his career. He wasn't someone who was going to put the Baltmore Ravens over the hump, I don't think."

With a TV gig in hand, it's hard to imagine the Ravens giving Kelly less than Vinny Testeverde's $5 million contract to replace him. Kelly moved from NBC's game booth to ESPN's pregame show in 1998 and was soon out of the business.