It's been almost 15 years since the Bills and their fans believed they had a franchise quarterback. Now with the commitment made by Ralph Wilson, the Buffalo Bills have another in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and it couldn't make Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly happier.
"I'm extremely happy for Ryan and his family," Kelly told Buffalobills.com in the wake of Fitzpatrick's contract extension. "He's earned that right to move on to the next level of quarterbacks in this league."
Kelly is as much a fan of the Bills as he is a link to the glory days of the early 90's. He, along with every other Bills follower, longed for the day when they had a quarterback they were convinced could get the job done week in and week out.
"He's proven over the last year, and this year, that he is a leader and that the players do respect him as the leader of this football team," said Kelly of Fitzpatrick. "This is something that the Bills not only as an organization, but the players have not seen in many years, including some of the players that are still on the roster. Now they know that they have a leader and a person that's going to be here a while."
With the quarterback position stabilized with the Fitzpatrick extension, Kelly is hopeful that the remaining necessary pieces are put around Fitzpatrick to allow the offense and the team to take the next step.
"Now it's up to the Bills front office to surround him with enough talent so the team can move on to the next level and they can start talking about playoffs from this year on through the years to come," he said. "I know it's early, but it's something we've lacked for the last 15 years, stability at the quarterback position."
More importantly, Kelly also sees Fitzpatrick as the first of a handful of players that provide a personal identity for the Bills.
"You want people talking about Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Buffalo Bill," he said. "There are also guys like Fred Jackson and Stevie Johnson. We need to have those players that when people speak about the Buffalo Bills they're not talking about Jim Kelly or Thurman Thomas or Andre Reed or Bruce Smith anymore. They're speaking about guys now that fans can relate to as being the face of the team now, not the guys that played 15 years ago. We need to get those players faces and names out there as the Bills of the here and now. Fitz is the start of that."