Levy, Marv : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Levy, Marv

Marvin Daniel Levy

Levy is the only pro football coach to lead his team to four straight Super Bowls, although he lost all four with the Buffalo Bills from 1990-1993.

Considered one of the smartest coaches in NFL history, Levy has a Master's Degree in English history from Harvard University; he lists his hobbies as English history, reading, and music, and among his favorite authors are Leon Uris and Herman Wouk. He was named by Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the NFL as one of the 30 greatest coaches of all time.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. August 3, 1925

Career Highlights:
Levy's coaching career began in 1951, the year he enrolled at Harvard Law School. He dropped out, however to become the head football coach at Country Day, a St. Louis high school. When he called his father, Sam Levy (who enlisted in the Marines in World War I at the age of 16 by lying about his age) with the news, the phone went dead for a minute and then his father said: "You better be a good one." Marv was.

In 1953, Levy returned to his alma mater, Coe College (where he had been an excellent halfback) as an assistant coach. Two years later, he joined the staff at the University of New Mexico and took over as head coach in 1958. After coaching at the University of California and the College of William and Mary, Levy joined the pro ranks in 1969 as the kicking teams coach with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. The following year, Marv joined the Los Angeles Rams as special teams coach and then headed to the Washington Redskins in the same position with head coach George Allen. After two years with the Redskins, Levy left the NFL to become a head coach in the Canadian Football League.

In 1973, Levy became the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. During his five-year stint with the team, they made the playoffs every year and won the Grey Cup in 1974 and 1977. Following his second Grey Cup, Levy returned to the NFL as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the worst teams in the league that year with a 2-12 record. Marv immediately improved the team and the Chiefs went 4-10 in 1978, 7-9 in 1979, and 8-8 in 1980. The team barely missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record in 1981. Despite turning the franchise around, though, Levy was soon out of a job as he clashed with the team's general manager. After going 3-6 in the strike-shortened 1982 season, Marv was fired.

In 1985, after two years off, Levy coached the Chicago Blitz of the USFL before returning to the Montreal Alouettes as director of football operations in 1986. However, he yearned to return to the sidelines. In 1986, Marv got his chance when he was hired as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, a club badly in need of re-building, as they had a combined record of 4-28 the previous two years. Levy quickly built a high-powered offense around quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, and receiver Andre Reed. Named NFL Coach of the Year in 1988, Levy led the Bills to a record of 12-4 that year and their first of six AFC East Division titles.

In 1990, the Bills made it to the Super Bowl, only to lose on a last-second field goal miss. They returned to the Super Bowl an unprecedented three more times, and although they lost all four games, Levy's accomplishment is one of the greatest in NFL history. He retired from coaching in 1997 with a terrific 112-70 regular season record with the Bills. He was named AFC Coach of the Year in 1988, 1993, and 1995. On August 4, 2001 (the day before his 76th birthday), Levy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the fifth Jew in the Hall of Fame (Sid Luckman, Ron Mix, Sid Gillman, and Al Davis). He is also a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Chicago, Illinois

Career Dates:
Levy was the special teams coach with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1969. He then coached the Montreal Alouettes (Canadian Football League) from 1973-1977. In the NFL he coached the Kansas City Chiefs from 1978-1982 and the Buffalo Bills from 1986-1996.

Career Statistics:
CFL coaching record: 50-34-4
NFL coaching record:143-112; 11-8 in the playoffs.

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Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)