Jim Kelly hung up his No. 12 jersey today.
The greatest quarterback in Buffalo Bills history announced his retirement from pro football at a news conference in the fieldhouse next to Rich Stadium.
It was a tear-filled farewell to Kelly's glorious 11-year NFL career.
"At this time, I'm officially announcing my retirement from the NFL and as the Buffalo Bills quarterback. It has been a great ride. To me it's not an end, it's a beginning. My life is just beginning."
Kelly stood hand in hand with his wife, Jill, while making his announcement. He wept throughout his prepared speech.
"As you might imagine, this hasn't been easy. I've had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I've been playing football for over 28 years. Many of my dreams have been fulfilled and many of my goals achieved. And most important to me, I've been able to take care of the people I love."
Kelly thanked his teammates, the members of the Bills organization and the fans.
"You are without a doubt the greatest fans in the world."
Coach Marv Levy said Kelly left a lasting mark on the team and the NFL.
"We're not going to bid farewell to Jim," Levy said. "His legacy and what he gave to the Buffalo Bills will remain as long as professional football is played."
Team president Ralph C. Wilson Jr. began the news conference by saying it was a "bittersweet, symbolic day in Buffalo."
Wilson spoke about several moments in Kelly's career.
"No player has done so much for the Buffalo Bills than Jim Kelly," Wilson said. "We're going to miss Jim Kelly. I truly thank you for all you did and wish you the greatest success in the future for you and your wife."
Levy and numerous teammates, including Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Chris Spielman, were in attendance.
Kelly said he is undecided on his future plans, adding that he has spoken with NBC and ESPN about possible broadcasting opportunities. He said he and his family would eventually relocate to Virginia.
It is expected he will remain with the Bills organization as a consultant for at least the next year and be paid about $1 million.
Thus ends a glorious 11-year NFL career. Kelly, who turns 37 on Feb. 14, holds almost every passing record in the Bills' record book. He ranks high on many of the NFL's career charts. Kelly ends his career eighth all-time in completions, 10th in yards, 12th in touchdown passes and 13th in attempts. He owns the fifth-best completion percentage in NFL history and ranks fifth all-time in passing efficiency.
The Bills informed Kelly last week that he was not in their plans any more. The team concluded Kelly's skills have diminished to the point where they want to build a new offense around a younger quarterback. The Bills intend to turn the quarterback job over to Todd Collins, under the direction of Dan Henning, the team's new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
After consultation with his family, Kelly decided he did not want to start over with another NFL team, very possibly in a backup's role. He decided it was better to end his career now.
"Without a doubt, I think he is the most competitive quarterback to ever play in the NFL," center Kent Hull said. "I've said this before, if you play him in a game of checkers, you better watch the board because he'll find a way to win."
"In his 11 seasons, Jim Kelly made tremendous contributions to the NFL," NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement. "He helped turn the Bills into one of the elite teams of his era and he also was a leader in the Buffalo community through his many charitable endeavors."
The Bills made eight playoff appearances in the past nine seasons under Kelly's quarterbacking. They won six AFC East Division titles in that span, and of course, won four AFC championships and lost four Super Bowls. Kelly's career record as a starter was 101-59, a winning percentage of .631.Kelly entered the 1996 season hoping to play perhaps three more years. However, his final season turned out to be his worst. He threw 14 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions. His numbers, of course, were hindered by the ineffectiveness of the Bills' offense as a whole.