by Mike Magers
(Image credit: buffalobills.com)
Coach Marv Levy’s connection to New Mexico is when he served as head football coach of University of New Mexcio in 1958 and 1959, after serving as an assistant coach there since 1954.
He was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 3, 1925 and graduated from South Shore High School in 1943. Following his graduation, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he served for the duration of World War II. Upon his discharge in 1946, he enrolled at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he was a three sport letter winner in basketball, track and football while earning a degree in English literature. He obtained a master’s degree in English history from Harvard University after graduating from Coe College.
A football coach with degrees in English literature and history may be something of a rarity in pro football but his mother read English literature from such authors as Shakespeare, Keats and Milton.
His first coaching job was at the high school level when he was a baskeball and football coach at St. Louis Country Day. Following this, he began his college coaching career by returning to his alma mater, Coe College, as an assistant and head coach. He then transitioned in 1954 to University of New Mexico where he was an assistant until being named head coach of the Lobos in 1958. In his two years as head coach, the Lobos earned a record of 14-6, going 7-3 each year with strong running back and future All-American Don Perkins. He left New Mexico for California where he served as head coach from 1960 to 1963 before moving on to the same position at William and Mary until 1968, after which he began his professional football coaching career.
Coach Levy served as an assistant coach with the following teams: Philadelphia Eagles (1969), Los Angeles Rams (1970) under Coach George Allen, and again under Allen with Washington Redskins (1971-1972). His first head coaching position was with Montreal where he served as head coach of the Alloettes of the Canadian Football League from 1973 to 1977. His overall record at Montreal was 43-31-4. In his five seasons with the Alloettes, he took the team to the Grey Cup three times, winning the championship in two of them. Levy then joined the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL where he was head coach from 1978 to 1982. His record in Kansas City was 31-42. Under Levy, the Chiefs showed improvement each year except for 1982 when the season was interrupted by a player strike. Except for one season in the USFL when he was head coach of the Chicago Blitz, he was on the sidelines in the interim before signing on in 1986 as head coach of the Buffalo Bills at mid season.
In Buffalo, where he would remain for the rest of his career, Coach Levy had his greatest success, recording 112 wins against 70 losses. During his tenure, the Bills won the AFC Championships a record four consecutive years, 1990 through 1993, earning the team appearances to the Super Bowls, though they did not win a Super Bowl game.
Coach Levy retired as a head coach after the 1997 season. His NFL regular season record was 143-112. His teams went 11-8 in the playoffs bringing his overall record in the NFL to 154-120 in his 17 seasons with the NFL.
His 154 career wins rank 21st in the NFL, a very respectable place on the list. His impact on the Buffalo club is quite dramatic. The Bills have had only four winning seasons in the twenty years since Levy retired. Their all time record as of 2017 is 414-475. Without regard to Levy’s wins and losses, the team record drops to 302-405.
His honors include being named to the Buffalo Bills’ Wall of Fame. Levy holds the club record in Buffalo for most wins at 112. He was twice named UPI’s NFL Coach of the Year and once named the Sporting News Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in its 2016 class.
Levy now lives with his family in Chicago but makes it back to Buffalo occasionally for Bills games. He also has written at least four books and feels that he may have more books inside him. Even now when he is in his 90s, no one doubts that he could do it.