Bills can interview Boys' Payton; Levy removes self

Updated: January 14, 2006, 6:42 PM ET news services

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills general manager Marv Levy clarified Saturday that he's not a candidate for the vacant head-coaching job, while Jim Haslett and the team have had preliminary contact about the post.

"I want to say unequivocally that I am here to serve as the general manager/football operations," Levy said in a statement posted on the team's Web site.

The clarification comes a day after the 80-year-old Hall of Fame coach repeatedly declined to rule himself out as a candidate to take over as head coach following Mike Mularkey's resignation.

"I regret that I was not more specific in stating that I will not be serving in a coaching capacity," said Levy, who came out of retirement to take over as the GM after the Bills dismissed team president/general manager Tom Donahoe on Jan. 4.

Bills owner Ralph Wilson also reiterated his stand that Levy would not be a coaching candidate.

"He was hired to be the GM and would never coach the team," Wilson said. "We are excited to have Marv as our general manager as we move forward in hiring a new coach."

If Levy's out, add Haslett, the recently fired New Orleans coach, to the mix as well as Cowboys offensive coordinator Sean Payton. The Bills received permission late Friday to interview Payton, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Saturday.

Haslett's agent, Peter Schaffer, told The Associated Press on Saturday that his client has had contact with the Bills. Schaffer wouldn't say who made the initial call, but added that no interview has yet been scheduled.

"Obviously, I have great interest in the job," Haslett told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on Friday. "First of all, I have great personal feelings for the organization because I played there and still know people who work there, and I have admiration for Mr. Wilson.

"It's a great organization, but I understand there's a process. They have their own agenda. We'll have to wait and see."

Haslett has several ties to Buffalo. A former linebacker, he played for the Bills from 1979-85 and began his coaching career as an assistant with the University at Buffalo from 1988-90.

"He has nothing but the utmost respect for Mr. Wilson and would be honored to interview for such a prestigious job," Schaffer said.

Haslett is also been linked to several other head-coaching vacancies, including New York Jets and Detroit. The NFL's coach of the year in 2000, Haslett's rookie season as a coach, he was fired after the Saints 3-13 finish.

The Bills declined comment on Haslett.

Other potential candidates include Bills defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, who completed his fifth season with Buffalo; Dick Jauron, Detroit's interim coach; Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera; Dallas assistant head coach Sean Payton; and Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Fassel.

Fassel declined comment. He spent seven seasons as head coach of the New York Giants before being fired in 2003, and he was a candidate for the Bills' job before the team hired Mularkey.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.