Marv Levy

Last updated

Marv Levy
Marv Levy (cropped).jpg
Levy in 2009
Personal information
Born: (1925-08-03) August 3, 1925 (age 98)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Career information
High school: South Shore (Chicago, Illinois)
College: Wyoming, Coe
Position: Defensive back
Career history
As a coach:
As an administrator:
Career highlights and awards
Head coaching record
Regular season:NFL: 143–112 (.561)
CFL: 43–31–4 (.577)
Postseason:NFL: 11–8 (.579)
CFL: 7–3 (.700)
Career:NFL: 154–120 (.562)
CFL: 50–34–4 (.591)
Coaching stats at PFR

Marvin Daniel Levy ( /ˈlv/ ; born August 3, 1925) [1] is an American former football coach and executive who was a head coach in the National Football League (NFL) for seventeen seasons. He spent most of his head coaching career with the Buffalo Bills, leading them from 1986 to 1997. Levy's first head coaching position was with the Montreal Alouettes of Canadian Football League (CFL) from 1973 to 1977, where he won two Grey Cup titles.


After five seasons coaching the Kansas City Chiefs, Levy helped the Bills become one of the most dominant American Football Conference (AFC) teams during the 1990s. His greatest success occurred between 1990 and 1993 when he led Buffalo to a record four consecutive Super Bowls, although each game ended in defeat. Levy concluded his head coaching career with 11 playoff victories and four Super Bowl appearances, both of which are the most of head coaches to not win an NFL championship. [lower-alpha 1]

After retiring from coaching in 1997, Levy served as the general manager of the Bills from 2006 to 2007. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2021.

Early life and education

Levy was born to a Jewish family in Chicago on August 3, 1925. [1] [2]

In 1943, the day after graduation from South Shore High School in Chicago, [3] Levy enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. He served as a meteorologist at Apalachicola Army Airfield in Franklin County, Florida, but the war ended before his unit deployed to the Pacific. [4]

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. [5] Referring to the Super Bowl, he said "This is not a must-win; World War II was a must-win". [6] Steve Tasker, who played for Levy on the Bills, said [7]

Marv always had a knack for always finding the right thing to say. He wasn't a believer in Knute Rockne, 'Win one for the Gipper' speeches. He didn't like ripping us. But what he said had an effect on us, one way or another. It either got us mad at our opponents or mad at ourselves. Marv was a master psychologist at knowing what buttons to push.

In later years, Levy became a supporter of the World War II Memorial [8] and pushed for World War II veterans to be honored at Super Bowl LIV to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in the war, noting that fewer than 3% of those who served in the war were still alive in 2020. [9]

Playing career

Levy was initially recruited to the Wyoming Cowboys football team as a defensive back. [10] The coach who recruited Levy left Wyoming, and Levy was displeased and exhausted by the following coach's round-the-clock training regimen. He transferred to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa following a single semester. [11]

At Coe College, Levy earned varsity letters in football, track, and basketball. He obtained a degree in English literature, was granted membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Society, [12] 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, where he earned a Masters of Arts in English history. [13]

Coaching career

Levy's first coaching job was at St. Louis Country Day School, coaching football and basketball; he coached the school's basketball team to a championship. [14]


Two years later, Levy returned to Coe College as an assistant football coach (1953–1954). In his second stint as a head coach, he also won a championship in basketball; future NBA Coach Bill Fitch was one of his players. [14]

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 in 1958. [15] 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, [16] Levy's best record during his four-season tenure as head coach at Cal from 1960 to 1963 was 4–5–1. [17]

He finished his college coaching career with a five-year stint as head coach at the College of William & Mary [18] where he twice earned Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors. In 1965 his team had the school's first winning record in 12 years. [19]


Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, and Washington Redskins

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, D.C., in 1971, where he served as the Washington Redskins' special teams coach for two seasons.

Canadian Football League

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.

Kansas City Chiefs

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. [20]

Buffalo Bills

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 with the Buffalo Bills. Initially hired as a television analyst, Levy replaced Hank Bullough seven games into the regular season as head coach. 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. [21] With his high-powered "no-huddle" offense, Levy's Bills went on to lead his AFC championship team to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances, the most in league history. [20] Each game ended in defeat, however, tying Levy with Bud Grant and Dan Reeves for the most Super Bowl appearances without a victory.

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 [22] and was 11–8 in the playoffs during his eleven seasons with the Bills. [20] He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1988 and AFC Coach of the Year in 1988, 1993, and 1995. [23]

Levy retired after the 1997 season, when he felt that it was time to rest, doing so despite the pleas of Wilson to stay. He later stated that he regretted the decision. [24] He later became an analyst for In 2001, Levy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. [25] Along with former Bills' special-teamer Steve Tasker, Levy did local broadcasts for the Bills' pre-season games from 1998 until being appointed the Bills' general manager in 2006. [26] During the regular season he was a part of the Chicago Bears pregame show on ESPN Radio 1000 (WMVP-AM), 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. [27] 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: "He was hired to be the GM and would never coach the team." [28]

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. [29] After a strenuous interview process Levy and team owner Wilson hired Detroit Lions interim head coach Dick Jauron as coach. Jauron had been head coach of the Chicago Bears. [30]

Post-coaching career

Following the Bills' last game of the 2007 season, Levy decided to step down as general manager of the Bills following the expiration of his two-year contract. [31]

He returned to live in his native Chicago, although he also spent some time in Montreal mentoring then-Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman. [32] Levy stated he would be open to returning to coaching if asked. [33]

In 2009, Levy collaborated with Buffalo football historian Jeffrey J. Miller to write a book entitled Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in Buffalo Bills Football History. [34]

In August 2011, Levy published a second book, Between the Lies, featuring a team based loosely on the Bills and 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. [35]

A lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, Levy was among a select few people in attendance at both the 1945 World Series, which he attended while on furlough from the Army Air Forces, and the 2016 World Series. [36]

Levy's fourth book, the children's book Go Cubs Go, is about the 2016 series. [37]

In 2017, he said that he has not paid much attention to professional football in the past several years as of 2017. [38]

In 2020, Levy assisted The Friends of the National World War II Memorial to convince NFL teams—and the league itself—to recognize the 75th anniversary of the war, honoring veterans at Super Bowl LIV in Miami. [39]

In 2021, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. [40]

In 2022, Levy appeared at the Bills' home opener and participated in a pregame crowd warm-up along with Jim Kelly, his former Bills quarterback. [41]

Personal life

Levy and his wife Mary have a daughter, Kim, and two grandchildren Angela (oldest) and Gregory (youngest). Following the death of Art McNally on January 1, 2023, Levy became the oldest living Pro Football Hall of Fame member.

Levy is a vegetarian. [42]

Head coaching record


New Mexico Lobos (Skyline Conference)(1958–1959)
1958 New Mexico 7–35–12nd
1959 New Mexico 7–34–23rd
New Mexico:14–69–3
California Golden Bears (Athletic Association of Western Universities)(1960–1963)
1960 California 2–7–11–34th
1961 California 1–8–11–3T–4th
1962 California 1–90–46th
1963 California 4–5–11–35th
William & Mary Indians (Southern Conference)(1964–1968)
1964 William & Mary 4–64–3T–4th
1965 William & Mary 6–45–12nd
1966 William & Mary 5–4–14–1–1T–1st
1967 William & Mary 5–4–12–2–14th
1968 William & Mary 3–72–35th
William & Mary:23–25–217–10–2
      National championship        Conference title        Conference division title or championship game berth


TeamYearRegular SeasonPost Season
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
MTL 1973 761.5363rd in East11.500Lost to Ottawa Rough Riders in East Final.
MTL 1974 952.6251st in East201.000Won over Edmonton Eskimos in 62nd Grey Cup.
MTL 1975 970.5632nd in East210.667Lost to Edmonton Eskimos in 63rd Grey Cup.
MTL 1976 781.4693rd in East010.000Lost to Hamilton Tiger-Cats in East Semi-Final.
MTL 1977 1150.6891st in East201.000Won over Edmonton Eskimos in 65th Grey Cup.
CFL Total43314.57773.700Won two Grey Cup Championships.
KC 1978 4120.2505th in AFC West
KC 1979 790.4385th in AFC West
KC 1980 880.5003rd in AFC West
KC 1981 970.5633rd in AFC West
KC 1982 360.3334th in AFC West
KC Total31420.425
CHI 1984 5130.2785th in Central
USFL Total5130.278
BUF 1986 250.2864th in AFC East
BUF 1987 780.4674th in AFC East
BUF 1988 1240.7501st in AFC East11.500Lost to Cincinnati Bengals in AFC Championship Game
BUF 1989 970.5631st in AFC East01.000Lost to Cleveland Browns in AFC Divisional Game
BUF 1990 1330.8131st in AFC East21.667Lost to New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV
BUF 1991 1330.8131st in AFC East21.667Lost to Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXVI
BUF 1992 1150.6882nd in AFC East31.750Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII
BUF 1993 1240.7501st in AFC East21.667Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII
BUF 1994 790.4384th in AFC East
BUF 1995 1060.6251st in AFC East11.500Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC Divisional Game
BUF 1996 1060.6252nd in AFC East01.000Lost to Jacksonville Jaguars in AFC Wild Card Game
BUF 1997 6100.3754th in AFC East
BUF Total112700.615118.579
NFL Total [43] 1431120.561118.579

Career highlights


See also


  1. Levy is tied with Dan Reeves for the most playoff wins without an NFL championship and with Reeves and Bud Grant for the most Super Bowl appearances without a championship.

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