Marv Levy retires as Bills coach
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) _ Marv Levy retired today as coach of the Buffalo Bills, who became one of the NFL’s showcase teams in the 1990s but could not shake the stigma of losing four consecutive Super Bowls.
The silver-haired 72-year-old coach _ who next season would have surpassed George Halas as the oldest coach in NFL history _ leaves following a 6-10 season and amid speculation he would be part of a shakeup of his offensive assistants.
``Today is a bittersweet day for me,″ Levy said at a news conference. ``Visions from a lifetime of thrills keep flashing before me. The future beckons and I look forward to it with anticipation and excitement.″
Levy coached the Bills 12 years. He has led one team longer than any current coach or manager in the four major sports except Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly, who was hired two months before Levy in 1986.
He is the only coach to reach _ and lose _ four straight Super Bowls. The Bills were consistently among the NFL’s most talented teams but never won the biggest game. Levy, unfailingly patient and philosophical, never lost his dignity in defeat.
The leading candidate to succeed Levy appears to be defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Phillips put together one of the NFL’s best defenses in Buffalo after he was fired following a two-year stint with the Denver Broncos.
Signs that Levy would leave started Dec. 21 at his postseason news conference, when he refused to definitely say he would be back for another season.
Team sources said Levy mentioned nothing about retirement when he met with his staff Monday before breaking for the New Year’s holiday. He told his assistants today he would retire.
Although Buffalo never won the Super Bowl, Levy was popular with players and fans around the league. He brought intelligence and savvy to the game, and few coaches could boast of holding a master’s degree in English history from Harvard. Many of his former players _ including quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas and defensive end Bruce Smith _ said they would never play for another coach.
``I think the guy has been a fantastic asset to this game and to this division,″ New England Patriots coach Pete Carroll said today. ``He’s a senator type, such a tremendous person outside of his coaching. And the thing that’s really neat about Marv is he has that uniqueness about his personality and it comes through in his coaching.″
Doubts about Levy’s future intensified Tuesday when team owner Ralph Wilson flew from his winter home in West Palm Beach, Fla., to Buffalo to meet with Levy for the second time in less than a week. The two met last weekend to discuss the team’s future.
The Bills won AFC championships from 1990-93 but have been in steady decline since the 1995 season. This year they lost six of their final seven games this year and missing the playoffs.
Sources told The Associated Press that Wilson wanted changes made in Levy’s offensive coaching staff after Buffalo struggled to move the ball nearly all season. Levy was hoping to keep his staff intact.
Levy overcame prostate cancer in 1995 and said during his postseason news conference that he felt physically capable of coaching for the next few years.
Wilson for years has said that Levy had a job with the Bills as long as he wanted. Levy began contemplating his future after Buffalo was unable to make it to the postseason.
Levy had a 143-112 record in a 17-year career that included five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He took over the Bills after Hank Bullough was fired in 1986 and became the winningest coach in team history with a 123-78 record.
Levy also also coached the Chicago Blitz for one season in the USFL and the Montreal Alouettes for five years in the Canadian Football League. He guided Montreal to the Grey Cup title in 1974 and 1977. He started his professional career in 1969 as an assistant with Philadelphia.