Marv Levy as head coach of the NFL's Buffalo Bills in the 1990's.
August 3 1925|
|NFL Supplemental Draft||/ Pick:|
|College||Coe College; Harvard|
|Coaching stats at pro-football-reference.com|
|Career highlights and awards|
He is a former professional football coach, in the CFL as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes (1973–1977) where he won two Grey Cup Championships, in the NFL as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs (1978–1982), in the USFL as head coach of the Chicago Blitz (1984), and the Buffalo Bills (1986–1997), coaching the Bills to four consecutive American Football Conference Championships. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Early life[edit | edit source]
Levy's family emigrated from Montreal, Quebec. His father, a decorated World War I veteran, ran a small business on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from South Shore High School in Chicago, in 1943. Following graduation, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces and spent the remainder of World War II in the military; Levy was discharged from the army shortly after the war ended. Though he was known to use historical examples to inspire his teams, Levy corrected those who used war and combat metaphors to describe football games by telling them that he actually fought in a war and that football and war were in no way comparable. Referring to the Super Bowl, he once said "This is not a must-win; World War II was a must-win".
College years[edit | edit source]
Levy enrolled at Coe College in Iowa. There he earned varsity letters in football, track, and basketball. He obtained a degree in English literature, was granted membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and was twice voted student council president. He was also a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He was admitted to Harvard University for graduate studies in 1951, earning a masters degree in English history.
College coaching[edit | edit source]
His first coaching job was at St. Louis Country Day School, coaching football and basketball. Two years later, Levy returned to Coe College as an assistant football coach (1953–1954). In 1954, he joined the coaching staff at the University of New Mexico and was named head coach in 1958. In two seasons as head coach, he guided the Lobos to a 14–6 record and earned Skyline Conference Coach of the Year honors both years. He interviewed with the University of California, Berkeley on February 2, 1960, and was announced as the new head coach of the Cal Bears on February 5, 1960. Despite selecting a young Bill Walsh as a coaching assistant, Levy's best record during his four season tenure as head coach at Cal from 1960-1963 was 4-5-1. He finished his college-coaching career with a five-year stint as head coach at the College of William and Mary where he twice earned Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors.
Professional football[edit | edit source]
Levy began his professional football coaching career in 1969 as kicking teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles before joining George Allen's staff as a special teams coach for the Los Angeles Rams in 1970. He followed Allen to Washington DC in 1971, where he served as the Washington Redskins' special teams coach for two seasons. Levy then served as the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League for five seasons. He coached Montreal to three CFL Grey Cup appearances and two championships, and won the Annis Stukus Trophy (Coach of the Year) in 1974. Levy returned to the NFL in 1978 as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He coached the Chiefs for five seasons with steady improvement each year, but was fired at the end of the strike-shortened 1982 season with a 3–6 record.
Midway through the 1986 season, following a two-year hiatus from coaching and one season as the head coach of the Chicago Blitz of the USFL, Levy returned to the NFL as head coach of the Buffalo Bills. He finished the season with a 2–5 record. In 1987, his first full season with the Bills, the team returned to respectability with a 7–8 record and were in the playoff hunt throughout most of the season. The following season the team posted a 12–4 record and won the first of six AFC Eastern Division titles. With his high-powered “no-huddle” offense (co-opted from Sam Wyche's Cincinnati Bengals), Levy went on to lead his AFC championship team to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
From 1988 through 1997, the Bills were first in the AFC in winning percentage and second only to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. Levy, the winningest coach in Bills’ history, recorded a 112–70 regular season record and was 11–8 in the playoffs during his eleven seasons with the Bills. He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1988 and AFC Coach of the Year in 1988, 1993, and 1995.
Coaching tree[edit | edit source]
Levy's coaching tree is among the largest of any NFL head coach; however, this is largely due to the fact that he once had Bill Walsh as an assistant and most of Walsh's assistants never worked under Levy. Among notable non-Walsh coaches are former Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, former Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore Colts coach Ted Marchibroda, and New York Sentinels head coach Ted Cottrell.
Outspoken pundit Chuck Dickerson worked under Levy for several years in Buffalo before being fired.
First retirement[edit | edit source]
Levy retired in 1997 and became an analyst for NFL.com. In 2001 Levy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Along with former Bills' special teamer Steve Tasker, Levy did local broadcasts for the Bills' pre-season games until being appointed the Bills' general manager in 2006. During the regular season he was a part of the Chicago Bears pregame show on ESPN Radio 1000, as well as a Bears postgame show on Comcast SportsNet.
General manager[edit | edit source]
On January 5, 2006, Bills owner Ralph Wilson enlisted Levy, at the age of 80, to act as General Manager and Vice President of Football Operations for the Buffalo Bills. Following the resignation of Mike Mularkey, there was initial speculation (created by Levy's own comments at a team press conference) that Levy would resume a coaching role with the team. To eliminate this speculation, and to minimize any future tension between Levy and the Bills' new head coach, team owner Wilson said: "To say it very, very succinctly, Marv Levy is our general manager. He will never be the coach."
Levy's first order of business was to hire a new coach as a replacement for Mularkey, who resigned within days of Levy's appointment. After a strenuous interview process Levy and team owner Wilson hired Detroit Lions interim head coach Dick Jauron as coach. Jauron formerly was head coach of the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.
Second retirement[edit | edit source]
Following the Bills' last game of the 2007 season, Levy decided to step down as GM of the Bills (his two year contract had expired). He has returned to live in his native Chicago, although he has also spent some time in Montreal mentoring Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman.
In 2009, Levy collaborated with Buffalo football historian Jeffrey Miller (Professional Football Researchers Association) to write a book entitled Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in Buffalo Bills Football History. In August 2011, Levy published a second book, Between the Lies, featuring a team based loosely on the Bills (including a quarterback named "Kelly James") progressing to the Super Bowl against a Los Angeles-based team and its take-no-prisoners head coach, while a scandal erupts, placing the integrity of the game at risk. Levy has indicated he has future books planned, some of which may not involve football.
Head coaching record[edit | edit source]
College[edit | edit source]
|New Mexico Lobos (Mountain States Conference) (1958–1959)|
|California Golden Bears (Athletic Association of Western Universities) (1960–1963)|
|William & Mary Tribe (Southern Conference) (1964–1968)|
|1964||William & Mary||4–6||4–3||T–4th|
|1965||William & Mary||6–4||5–1||2nd|
|1966||William & Mary||5–4–1||4–1–1||T–1st|
|1967||William & Mary||5–4–1||2–2–1||4th|
|1968||William & Mary||3–7||2–3||5th|
|William & Mary:||23–25–2||17–10–2|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
Professional[edit | edit source]
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|Won||Lost||Ties||Win %||Finish||Won||Lost||Win %||Result|
|MTL||1973||7||6||1||.536||3rd in East||1||1||.500||Lost to Ottawa Rough Riders in East Final.|
|MTL||1974||9||5||2||.625||1st in East||2||0||1.000||Won over Edmonton Eskimos in 62nd Grey Cup.|
|MTL||1975||9||7||0||.563||2nd in East||2||1||0.667||Lost to Edmonton Eskimos in 63rd Grey Cup.|
|MTL||1976||7||8||1||.469||3rd in East||0||1||0.000||Lost to Hamilton Tiger-Cats in East Semi-Final.|
|MTL||1977||11||5||0||.689||1st in East||2||0||1.000||Won over Edmonton Eskimos in 65th Grey Cup.|
|CFL Total||43||31||4||.577||7||3||.700||Won two Grey Cup Championships.|
|KC||1978||4||12||0||.250||5th in AFC West||-||-||-||-|
|KC||1979||7||9||0||.438||5th in AFC West||-||-||-||-|
|KC||1980||8||8||0||.500||3rd in AFC West||-||-||-||-|
|KC||1981||9||7||0||.563||3rd in AFC West||-||-||-||-|
|KC||1982||3||6||0||.333||4th in AFC West||-||-||-||-|
|BUF||1986||2||5||0||.286||4th in AFC East||-||-||-||-|
|BUF||1987||7||8||0||.467||4th in AFC East||-||-||-||-|
|BUF||1988||12||4||0||.750||1st in AFC East||1||1||.500||Lost to Cincinnati Bengals in AFC Championship.|
|BUF||1989||9||7||0||.563||1st in AFC East||0||1||.000||Lost to Cleveland Browns in Divisional Game.|
|BUF||1990||13||3||0||.813||1st in AFC East||2||1||.667||Lost to New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV.|
|BUF||1991||13||3||0||.813||1st in AFC East||2||1||.667||Lost to Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXVI.|
|BUF||1992||11||5||0||.688||2nd in AFC East||3||1||.750||Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII.|
|BUF||1993||12||4||0||.750||1st in AFC East||2||1||.667||Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII.|
|BUF||1994||7||9||0||.438||4th in AFC East||-||-||-||-|
|BUF||1995||10||6||0||.625||1st in AFC East||1||1||.500||Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in Divisional Game.|
|BUF||1996||10||6||0||.625||2nd in AFC East||0||1||.000||Lost to Jacksonville Jaguars in Wild Card Game.|
|BUF||1997||6||10||0||.375||4th in AFC East||-||-||-||-|
Career highlights[edit | edit source]
- The only NFL coach to coach teams that won four straight league or conference championships
- Won two of three CFL championships in five seasons while head coach of the Montreal Alouettes
- Guided the Bills to six division championships (including four consecutive from 1988–1991)
- Compiled a 17–6 record (14–6 in the regular season and 3–0 in the post-season) against the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula. He is the only coach to have a winning record against Shula.
- Compiled 204 CFL-NFL-USFL coaching victories (7th on the all-time list)
- One of only 14 coaches to win 100 games with one NFL team
- The only coach to compete in four Super Bowls in a row and lose
- Retired at the age of 72; tied with George Halas as the oldest head coach in NFL history.
- First USFL alumnus to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
See also[edit | edit source]
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Marv Levy: Where Else Would You Rather Be?, Sports Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-58261-797-X
- Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in Buffalo Bills History (with Jeffrey Miller), Triumph Books, 2009. ISBN 1600782752
- Between the Lies (fiction), Ascend Books, 2011. ISBN 0983061939
References[edit | edit source]
- LA Times article on Veteran Athletes
- "Bills May Get Hurt Trying To Snap Bengals", Orlando Sentinel, 1989-01-07. Retrieved on 2010-04-05.
- Legendary coach Levy visits Alouettes training camp. Canadian Press via TSN. 11 June 2008.
- Marv Levy Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks - Pro-Football-Reference.com
[edit | edit source]
- Pro Football Hall of Fame: Member profile