Marv Levy

Marv Levy
Personal information
Born: (1925-08-03) August 3, 1925
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Career information
High school: Chicago (IL) South Shore
College: Coe College
Career history
As coach:
As administrator:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Win-Loss Record: 143–112
Winning %: .561
Games: 255
Coaching stats at PFR
Marv Levy
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch U.S. Army Air Forces
Years of service 1943–1946
Battles/wars World War II

Marvin Daniel Levy (born August 3, 1925) is a former American and Canadian football coach, front office executive, and author. He served as head coach in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Montreal Alouettes (1973–1977) and in the National Football League (NFL) for 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. 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 master's degree in English history.

College coaching

Levy's first coaching job was at St. Louis Country Day School, coaching football and basketball, the latter in which he coached to a championship.[3] Two years later, Levy returned to Coe College as an assistant football coach (1953–1954) and in his second stint as a head coach, he also won a championship—this time in basketball with future NBA Coach Bill Fitch as one of his players.[3] 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 to 1963 was 4–5–1. He finished his college coaching career with a five-year stint as head coach at the College of William & 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, D.C. 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, Levy's Bills 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 Wade Phillips, who succeeded Levy as the Bills' head coach and also served as head coach of the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys (along with interim coaching stints for the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and Houston Texans), as well as former Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts coach Ted Marchibroda, and former 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 (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. 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 had been head coach of the Chicago Bears.

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 also spent some time in Montreal mentoring then-Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman.[4] Levy stated he would be open to returning to coaching if asked.[5] He has also admittedly not paid much attention to professional football in the past several years as of 2017.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] Levy's fourth book, the children's book Go Cubs Go, is about the 2016 series.[10]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall ConferenceStanding Bowl/playoffs
New Mexico Lobos (Mountain States 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
California: 8–29–33–13
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
MTL1973 761.5363rd in East11.500Lost to Ottawa Rough Riders in East Final.
MTL1974 952.6251st in East201.000Won over Edmonton Eskimos in 62nd Grey Cup.
MTL1975 970.5632nd in East210.667Lost to Edmonton Eskimos in 63rd Grey Cup.
MTL1976 781.4693rd in East010.000Lost to Hamilton Tiger-Cats in East Semi-Final.
MTL1977 1150.6891st in East201.000Won over Edmonton Eskimos in 65th Grey Cup.
CFL Total43314.57773.700Won two Grey Cup Championships.
KC1978 4120.2505th in AFC West----
KC1979 790.4385th in AFC West----
KC1980 880.5003rd in AFC West----
KC1981 970.5633rd in AFC West----
KC1982 360.3334th in AFC West----
KC Total31420.425---
BUF1986 250.2864th in AFC East----
BUF1987 780.4674th in AFC East----
BUF1988 1240.7501st in AFC East11.500Lost to Cincinnati Bengals in AFC Championship.
BUF1989 970.5631st in AFC East01.000Lost to Cleveland Browns in Divisional Game.
BUF1990 1330.8131st in AFC East21.667Lost to New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV.
BUF1991 1330.8131st in AFC East21.667Lost to Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXVI.
BUF1992 1150.6882nd in AFC East31.750Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII.
BUF1993 1240.7501st in AFC East21.667Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII.
BUF1994 790.4384th in AFC East----
BUF1995 1060.6251st in AFC East11.500Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in Divisional Game.
BUF1996 1060.6252nd in AFC East01.000Lost to Jacksonville Jaguars in Wild Card Game.
BUF1997 6100.3754th in AFC East----
BUF Total112700.615118.579
NFL Total[11]1431120.561118.579

Career highlights

  • 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, other than Tom Flores of the Raiders, who went 6-1 against Don Shula.
  • Compiled 204 CFL-NFL-USFL coaching victories (7th on the all-time list)
  • One of only 15 coaches to win 100 games with one NFL team
  • The only coach to compete in four Super Bowls in a row
  • 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
  • One of only two coaches to appear in both a Grey Cup Championship Game and the Super Bowl. The other is Bud Grant.
  • Oldest coach ever to win 12 games (age 68) and 10 games (age 71) [12]

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 1-60078-275-2
  • Between the Lies (fiction), Ascend Books, 2011. ISBN 0-9830619-3-9
  • Go Cubs Go! Baseball's Never Give Up Story (children's, with George Castle, illustrated by Rob Peters), Ascend Books 2017. ISBN 978-0996674270


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