Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly: AFC QBs remind me of when I played

Jim Kelly compares current AFC QBs to past legends (0:59)

Former Bills QB Jim Kelly says guys like Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson remind him of the legendary QBs like John Elway, Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason. (0:59)

John Elway. Boomer Esiason. Dan Marino. Jim Kelly.

That's the level of competition the latter, a former Buffalo Bills great and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, is starting to see when he looks at the quarterbacks playing in the AFC today.

Kelly said Tuesday on ESPN's First Take that he gets a sense of déjà vu regarding the current crop of signal-callers.

"When you have guys like Patrick Mahomes, [Deshaun] Watson, [Lamar] Jackson, you can keep going on -- [Sam] Darnold," he said. "There are guys that almost bring me back to the memory of me, Elway, Marino, Boomer Esiason, Bernie Kosar -- all the guys who were in the AFC when I played.

"It's almost starting to get like that."

Kelly went to four straight Super Bowls with the Bills from 1990 through 1993, sometimes matching up with other future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

With one of the NFL's toughest schedules in 2020, the Bills and third-year quarterback Josh Allen could face similar obstacles in their path to the Super Bowl, but that type of competition is one of Kelly's favorite aspects of the game.

"That's what makes football exciting, being able to match up the top quarterbacks," he said. "When you go to play, you look across the sideline -- I saw Elway, I saw Marino, I saw Boomer, I saw [Joe] Montana his last couple years in Kansas City. This is a great opportunity for the Buffalo Bills to come in and make a name for themselves. But it's not going to be easy."

Buffalo plays host to Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs this season. The Bills also face potential future Hall of Famers such as Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Seattle's Russell Wilson, established veterans such as Tennessee's Ryan Tannehill and Las Vegas' Derek Carr, and up-and-comers such as Arizona's Kyler Murray and Denver's Drew Lock.

Kelly went on to commend the Bills for trading for wide receiver Stefon Diggs this offseason, likening it to his Bills' move to add receiver James Lofton prior to their Super Bowl run in the early 1990s.

"This almost makes me feel like back in those days," Kelly said. "I know that Josh [Allen] is coming off a good season, he's getting better year after year. I've told him, 'It doesn't happen overnight. You're a young kid, it will take time.' Hopefully, this is the year that he turns everything around. He's finally got the weapons.

"He's with his receivers another year, same coordinator another year -- I think that is such a huge key, is having the same system year after year after year."