Marv Levy

Marv Levy
Marv Levy
Head Coach
Personal information
Date of birth: August 3, 1925 (1925-08-03) (age 86)
Chicago, Illinois
Career information
College: Coe College; Harvard
No regular season or postseason appearances
Made coaching debut in 1951 for the Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School
Last coached in 1997 for the Buffalo Bills
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • 4 AFC Championships (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993)
  • 2 CFL Championships (1974, 1977)
  • Sporting News NFL Coach of the Year (1988)
  • 2× UPI NFL Coach of the Year (1988, 1993)
  • NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
  • Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame
  • 143-112-0 (regular season record)
  • 11-8 (playoff record)
  • 154-120-0 (overall record)
Coaching stats at
Pro Football Hall of Fame

Marvin Daniel Levy (born August 3, 1925) is a former American and Canadian football coach, front office executive and author.

He is a former professional football coach, in the CFL as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes (1973–1977), and in the NFL as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs (1978–1982) 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

Levy's family emigrated from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His father, a decorated World War I veteran, ran a small business on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, USA. 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.[1] Referring to the Super Bowl, he once said "This is not a must-win; World War II was a must-win".[2]

College years

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

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

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[3]), 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

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

Levy retired in 1997 and became an analyst for 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

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

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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] Levy has indicated he has future books planned, some of which may not involve football.

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
New Mexico Lobos (Mountain States Conference) (1958–1959)
1958 New Mexico 7–3 5–1 2nd
1959 New Mexico 7–3 4–2 3rd
New Mexico: 14–6 9–3
California Golden Bears (Athletic Association of Western Universities) (1960–1963)
1960 California 2–7–1 1–3 4th
1961 California 1–8–1 1–3 T–4th
1962 California 1–9 0–4 6th
1963 California 4–5–1 1–3 5th
California: 8–29–3 3–13
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
Total: 45–60–5
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title


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 - - - -
KC Total 31 42 0 .425 - - -
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 - - - -
BUF Total 112 70 0 .615 11 8 .579
NFL Total[7] 143 112 0 .561 11 8 .579
Total 186 143 4 .565 18 11 .621

Career highlights

  • 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


  • 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


External links

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