Bills QB Josh Allen's Forgettable Performance Brings Back Memories of Jim Kelly

Bucky Gleason

The Bills selected Josh Allen with the seventh pick overall because they believed he would become their next franchise quarterback. Buffalo had searched for one since Jim Kelly retired, so it made sense to kick Allen into gear as soon as possible - but not too soon.

Sean McDermott pleaded for patience with Allen while the young quarterback learned how to play one of the most difficult positions in sports. The Bills warned of pitfalls along the way. He was going to make progress before teams adjusted to him. Regression at certain points was a certainty.

The Bills beat the Titans on Sunday after Allen completed only 10 of 19 passes for 82 yards. He ran for a touchdown, threw an interception that bounces off Andre Holmes’ hands and was sacked once. He led the Bills on a winning drive in the fourth quarter in a 13-12 win.

All in all, it was a great game for the Bills’ defense and a mediocre performance for their rookie quarterback in a learning year. It was a win. In an effort to help Allen, the Bills signed veteran Derek Anderson to serve as a mentor and backup quarterback.

In no time, people wondered whether Anderson could be summoned to the rescue the season if Allen continued to struggle. Never mind that the 22-year-old Allen and the 35-year-old Anderson have started the same number of games (four) since 2010. Anderson hasn't started since 2016.

Let’s review:

Allen mopped up a mess left behind by Nathan Peterman in the opener, showing more in less than a half than Peterman did in the start. He completed six of 15 passes for 74 yards in the second half, enough to put Peterman on the bench and begin Allen’s development on the fly.

In the second game, Allen threw his first touchdown pass with a bullet over the middle to Kelvin Benjamin in the final minute of a 31-20 loss to the Chargers than was closer than the score indicated. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 245 yards in the loss but showed promise.

Allen needed to manage the game against the Vikings, which he did while going 15 of 22 for 196 yards in a 27-6 victory. He attempted only four passes in the second half, completing all four. The Bills, a 17-point underdog, built a 27-0 lead and cruised to one of the biggest upsets in NFL history.

He was humbled against Green Bay, which included an ill-advised interception late in the first half that the Packers turned into a field goal and a 16-0 lead. The Bills were shut out for the first time in a decade, Allen was sacked seven times while throwing for 151 yards.

Of course, there was the game last week when Allen threw for a measly 82 yards and the pick. The lack of production was enough to raise questions about whether he was developing at the proper pace and belonged in the lineup for a 2-3 team that lacked a true franchise QB for more than two decades.


Kelly remains the standard for quarterbacks who followed him in Buffalo, but it wasn’t as if the Hall of Fame passer played well every week with the Bills. He had two seasons with the USFL and still stumbled after taking over the Bills’ offense. He had numerous games in which he didn’t throw from big yardage.

Here are some examples:

Sept. 21, 1986: 6 of 10 for 105 yards in a 17-10 win over St. Louis.

Nov. 9, 1986: 11 of 22 for 95 yards in a 16-12 win over Pittsburgh.

Oct. 30, 1988: 10 of 14 for 80 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions in a 28-0 win over Green Bay.

Nov. 20, 1988: 8 of 18 for 115, one TD, four sacks in a 9-6 win over the Jets.

Nov. 18, 1990: 5 of 15 for 79 yards in a 14-0 win over the Patriots.

Nov. 15, 1993: 7 of 19 for 93 yards in a 23-0 loss to Pittsburgh.

Sept. 10, 1995: 4 of 21 yards for 176 yards, one touchdown and three INTs in a 31-9 win over Carolina.

Oct. 8, 1995: 9 of 22 for 101 yards, one TD, one INT, in a 29-10 win over the Jets.

Remember, Allen is five games into his NFL career. Check back after five years. If he's a quarterback worth keeping, he's going to throw for fewer than 100 yards numerous times. Almost every quarterback does. If he doesn't, he could be something special.

Comments (3)
No. 1-3

hey buddy. your idea would have been better if they were limited to early career numbers. but i remember many of your examples, and often there's a reason for the numbers (aside from skill or just bad day):

9/21/86 vs st louis: early in his nfl career, successful running game that day, kelly was hurt in middle of game, returned but hurt

11/9/86 vs pitt: marv's first game. also notable because the winds were vvvvvverrry gusty. nobody throws in that.

11/20/88 vs nyj: division clinching game in a constant rain

11/18/90 vs ne: frigid game in high winds

11/15/93 vs pit: likely one of those monday night murders (not unlike super bowls)

what i don't see are a lot of indecisive games in perfect dome weather where passes are bounced to potential receivers. it's true that allen would not have made the peterman pick-six, if only because it would have come up short or high.

Bilvis 789
Bilvis 789

Jim Kelly first game 1986 vs Jets 20 of 33 292 3 TD 0 interceptions. Everybody knew immediately he was franchise material.

Peace Frog
Peace Frog

Thank you! I'm glad somebody gets it. I think Allen is going to be a damn good QB and we'll be glad we drafted him. Not to mention, his initials (J.A.) happen to be the last two letters in the word 'ninja'. That can't be a coincidence.