Buffalo Bills Coach Marv Levy Announces Retirement After 12 Years on the Job and Four Super
Dec. 31, 1997
Buffalo Bills Coach Marv Levy Announces Retirement After 12 Years on the Job and Four Super Bowl AppearancesBy BUCKY GLEASON
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 in which his team lost six of its last seven games.
``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, who says he will consider broadcasting offers, 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.
With his team out of the playoffs, Levy denied being pushed out the door by owner Ralph Wilson.
``In all the time, in the 12 years that I have coached ... he has never, never, never forced a coaching decision on me,'' Levy stressed. ``He's urged, he's questioned, he's disagreed from time to time. We've even slightly argued from time to time.''
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. 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 _ Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith _ said they would never play for another coach.
Kelly, retired special teams star Steve Tasker and most of Levy's assistants attended the news conference.
``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 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.
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. Wilson said he has not yet evaluated the staff.
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.
He said he told Wilson last week that he thought now might be the time to put a ``new and improved'' label on the Bills.
``I said ... maybe there would be a little more tolerance if somebody else goes through another struggling year ... than with me at the helm,'' he said.
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.
``He took a struggling franchise and one where the boat was really rocking and he righted the ship,'' Wilson said.
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.