The Class Of 1983
Selected fourteenth in the first round of the famed 1983 National Football League (NFL) draft, Kelly was not pleased with the prospect of playing in Buffalo. He instead chose to play for the Houston Gamblers of the United States Football League (USFL), a new spring football league competing with the NFL. In Houston, Kelly benefited from a pass-oriented offense and went on to win the USFL's Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 1984. When the USFL went out of business in 1986, Kelly reluctantly signed with the Bills after being offered the biggest contract in the NFL.
Kelly received a warm welcome in Buffalo but despite his performance on the field the team endured another losing season. After hiring Marv Levy to coach both the Bills and Kelly would improve and begin to contend. In 1988, the Bills went 12-4 and won the AFC East division title. Kelly's performance that season wasn't his best but he led his team to the American Football Conference (AFC) championship before losing to the Cincinnati Bengals. The following season was riddled by mediocrity and injury for the Bills and Kelly. Buffalo's fans became frustrated with Kelly and the team was in disarray. The trouble of the 1989 season subsided in 1990 when the Bills had their best season ever and their first trip to the Super Bowl. Kelly's Super Bowl dreams were dashed when Bills' kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal with four seconds left and the Bills lost to the New York Giants, 20-19.