Marv Levy
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Marv Levy

Marv Levy
Personal information
Born: (1925-08-03) August 3, 1925 (age 96)
Chicago, Illinois
Career information
High school:South Shore
(Chicago, Illinois)
Career history
As a coach:
As an administrator:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Win-Loss Record:143-112
Winning %:.561
Coaching stats at PFR
Marv Levy
Allegiance United States
Service/branchU.S. Army Air Forces seal U.S. Army Air Forces[]
Years of service1943-1946
Battles/warsWorld War II

Marvin Daniel Levy (born August 3, 1925) is an American former gridiron football coach and executive who was a head coach in the National Football League (NFL) for 17 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.[a] Although retiring from coaching after 1997, Levy returned to the Bills as their general manager 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

Levy's family emigrated from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He graduated from South Shore High School in Chicago in 1943.[1] 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.[2] Referring to the Super Bowl, he said "This is not a must-win; World War II was a must-win".[3] Steve Tasker, who played for Levy on the Bills, said[4]

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[5] 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.[6]

College years

Levy enrolled at Coe College in Iowa.[7] 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,[8] 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.[9]

College coaching

Levy's first coaching job was at St. Louis Country Day School, coaching football and basketball, the latter which he coached to a championship.[10] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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,[12] Levy's best record during his four-season tenure as head coach at Cal from 1960 to 1963 was 4-5-1.[13] He finished his college coaching career with a five-year stint as head coach at the College of William & Mary[14] where he twice earned Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18] 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[19] 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.[21]

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[22] 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,[23] and former New York Sentinels head coach Ted Cottrell.[24] Wally Buono played under Levy in Montreal and went on to become one of the CFL's most successful coaches.[25]

Outspoken pundit Chuck Dickerson worked under Levy for several years in Buffalo before being fired.[26]

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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] 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."[30]

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.[31] 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.[32]

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).[33] He has returned to live in his native Chicago, although he also spent some time in Montreal mentoring then-Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman.[34] Levy stated he would be open to returning to coaching if asked.[35] He has also admittedly not paid much attention to professional football in the past several years as of 2017.[36]

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.[37] 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.[38]

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.[39] Levy's fourth book, the children's book Go Cubs Go, is about the 2016 series.[40]

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.[41]

In 2021, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.[42]


He currently has a wife, Mary, a daughter, Kim. He also has two grandchildren Angela (oldest) and Georgey (youngest).

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
New Mexico Lobos (Skyline 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 Indians (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 or championship game berth


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[43] 143 112 0 .561 11 8 .579
Total 186 143 4 .565 18 11 .621

Career highlights

  • Won two of three CFL championships in five seasons while head coach of the Montreal Alouettes[44]
  • Guided the Bills to six division championships (including four consecutive from 1988-1991)[45]
  • 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.[46] He is one of only two coaches to have a winning record against Shula, the other being Tom Flores of the Raiders, who went 6-1 against him.[47]
  • Compiled 209 CFL-NFL-USFL coaching victories (T12th in Pro Football History)
  • 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[48]
  • Retired at the age of 72; tied with George Halas as the oldest non-interim head coach in NFL history.[49]
  • 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.[50]
  • Oldest coach ever to win 12 games (age 68) and 10 games (age 71) [51]
  • One of only 3 people to be enshrined in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.[52][53]

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


  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.


  1. ^ Greenberg, Steve. "At 93, Marv Levy no longer defined by Super Bowl losses". Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ Jonah Goldberg (July 11, 2006). "Sports Cont'd - The Corner". National Review. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  3. ^ LA Times article on Veteran Athletes
  4. ^ Tasker, Steve; Pitoniak, Scott (2013). "4: It Ain't Over Till It's Over". The Buffalo Bills: My Life on a Special Team. Sports Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61321-328-5.
  5. ^ O'Shei, Tim (January 6, 2020). Marv's mission: Levy enlisting NFL's help to honor Greatest Generation. The Buffalo News. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  6. ^ O'Shei, Tim. The NFL honored WWII vets at the Super Bowl. The Buffalo News. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  7. ^ DeVeronica, Jeff. "Marv Levy receives highest honor from his alma mater, Coe College". Retrieved 2019.
  8. ^ Pierson, Don. "A winner is certified". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2019.
  9. ^ Greenberg, Steve. "At 93, Marv Levy no longer defined by Super Bowl losses". Retrieved 2019.
  10. ^ a b Schoffner, Chuck (July 14, 2012). "Marv Levy named to Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame".
  11. ^ "Marv Levy". Retrieved 2019.
  12. ^ "Levy recalls providing Walsh his college coaching start at California". NFL Enterprises, LLC. Retrieved 2019.
  13. ^ "California Golden Bears School History". Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved 2019.
  14. ^ "Marv Levy Coaching Record". Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved 2019.
  15. ^ Horrigan, Joe. "Marv Levy" (PDF). Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^ "Player BIO". Retrieved 2019.
  17. ^ "Important Dates in Bills History: Nov. 3, 1986. Marv Levy hired as head coach". Retrieved 2019.
  18. ^ "Player BIO". Retrieved 2019.
  19. ^ "Buffalo Bills Coaches". Retrieved 2019.
  20. ^ "Player BIO". Retrieved 2019.
  22. ^ "Bills' Phillips: 'I'm not Marv Levy'". Retrieved 2019.
  23. ^ Preston, Mike. "Mr. Nice Guy Coach: Ted Marchibroda brings a positive, gentle approach to running a team. But that doesn't mean he lacks fire". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2019.
  24. ^ Duncan, Avery. "Former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator lands in the XFL". Retrieved 2019.
  25. ^ Baker, Matt. "FROZEN IN TIME: MARV LEVY HOLDS FOND MEMORIES OF WALLY BUONO". CFL Enterprises LP. Retrieved 2019.
  27. ^ "Greatest Coaches in NFL History - Marv Levy". ESPN, Inc. Retrieved 2019.
  28. ^ Pergament, Alan. "LEVY TO DISPLAY ANALYTICAL SKILLS ON BILLS EXHIBITION GAMES". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2019.
  29. ^ "Marv Levy Returns as Bills General Manager". WBFO. January 6, 2006. Retrieved 2019.
  30. ^ Lynch, Andrew. "91-year-old Marv Levy says he's willing to replace Rex Ryan as Buffalo Bills coach". Retrieved 2019.
  31. ^ "Mularkey resigns as Buffalo's coach". Retrieved 2019.
  32. ^ "Buffalo Bills Tap Dick Jauron as New Coach". January 23, 2006. Retrieved 2019.
  33. ^ "Levy to Resign as Bills GM". Retrieved 2019.
  34. ^ Legendary coach Levy visits Alouettes training camp. Canadian Press via TSN. June 11, 2008.
  35. ^ Marv Levy would be interested in Buffalo Bills job. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  36. ^ Maiorana, Sal (February 19, 2017). Marv Levy pens children's book to celebrate Cubs championship. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  37. ^ Levy, Marv; Miller, Jeff (2009). Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in Buffalo Bills Football History: Marv Levy, Jeffrey J. Miller: 9781600782756: Books. ISBN 978-1600782756.
  38. ^ Between the Lies (September 2011). Between the Lies: Marv Levy: 9780983061939: Books. ISBN 978-0983061939.
  39. ^ Marv Levy to be honored at World Series. Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  40. ^ Mawicke, Megan (January 19, 2017). Marv Levy Pens Children's Book About Cubs' World Series Win. WBBM. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  41. ^ "The NFL honored WWII vets at the Super Bowl. Thank Marv Levy for that". The Buffalo News. February 7, 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  42. ^ "Marv Levy announced as member of Canadian Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021". WKBW. April 13, 2021. Retrieved 2021.
  43. ^ Marv Levy Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks -
  44. ^ "Player BIO". Retrieved 2019.
  45. ^ "Buffalo Bills Team Encyclopedia". Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved 2019.
  46. ^ Poliquin, Bud (September 12, 2011). "Poliquin: After all this time, Marv Levy, the Buffalo Bills' Hall-of-Fame coach, has become an author". Advance Media NY. Retrieved 2019.
  47. ^ "Making the Case: Former Raiders Head Coach Tom Flores deserves a spot in Canton". The Oakland Raiders. Retrieved 2019.
  48. ^ Telander, Rick. "No Joke". TI Gotham Inc., a subsidiary of Meredith Corporation. Sports Illustrated Group. Retrieved 2019.
  49. ^ Milbert, Neil. "Chicago's Own Marv Levy, The Best Since Papa Bear". 22nd Century Media. Retrieved 2019.
  50. ^ Reed, Tom (January 10, 2013). "Two Hall of Fame coaches, who also spent time in the Canadian Football League, endorse Cleveland Browns candidate Marc Trestman". Advance Ohio. Retrieved 2019.
  51. ^ "Marv Levy Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks".
  52. ^ "Marv Levy named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021". Retrieved 2021.
  53. ^ "Former Alouettes head coach Marv Levy tops 2021 Canadian Football Hall of Fame class". Coast Reporter. Retrieved 2021.

External links

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