Levy steps down, believes Bills headed in right direction

Updated: December 31, 2007, 6:14 PM ET
Associated Press

Marv Levy

Levy

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Turns out, Marv Levy's job was to restore order in Buffalo. It'll be on someone else to turn the Bills into a playoff contender.

On Monday, 10 years to the day after he retired as the Bills coach, Levy called it quits again, stepping down after two years as the team's general manager.

As encores go, his second stint in Buffalo didn't come anywhere near to matching the first, when Levy established his Hall of Fame credentials by coaching the Bills to an unprecedented four consecutive AFC titles in the early 1990s.

Despite consecutive 7-9 finishes and an eight-season playoff drought, the 82-year-old Levy leaves confident in the franchise's future.

"It has been an experience that I have enjoyed immensely," Levy said in a statement released by the Bills. "Dick Jauron, his coaching staff and an admirable core of high-character players are heading in the right direction."

No Playoff Payoff

Only the Cardinals are on a longer playoff drought than the Bills, who haven't made the NFL's postseason since 1999.

Team Last playoff appearance
Cardinals 1998
Bills 1999
Lions 1999
Dolphins 2001

Bills owner Ralph Wilson credited Levy for bringing stability to a franchise that had alienated its fans and been undone by questionable coaching and personnel decisions under former team president Tom Donahoe, who was fired after the 2005 season.

"I will always be grateful for his service," Wilson said. "When we needed a new focus and direction, Marv improved our organization's morale, attitude and environment: All of that, plus the stability we needed to move forward."

Levy, who rejected an offer to stay on after his two-year contract expired, can be credited for rebuilding through the draft, as opposed to free agency. The Bills are stocked with a young core of players who have talent but have yet to jell.

Levy also earned marks for hiring Jauron, who kept players focused as the team endured a rash of injuries, finishing with 17 on injured reserve. That group included tight end Kevin Everett, now walking after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury in Buffalo's season opener.

But there's still a long way to go for the team, whose eight-year playoff drought is the second-longest active streak in the NFL, tied with Detroit and one year shorter than Arizona's.

The Bills' 53 wins this decade are tied with San Francisco for fifth fewest in the league -- not including Houston, which rejoined the NFL in 2002.

Buffalo also was undone this season by a revolving door at quarterback. Edwards eventually beat out incumbent J.P. Losman, which contributed to an inept offense that will go down as one of the team's worst ever.

The offense scored 20 touchdowns, the fewest in a 16-game season in franchise history, and failed to produce a TD in five games this year, including Sunday's 17-9 loss at Philadelphia. The Bills ranked 30th in the NFL in yards gained and managed 248 first downs, 14 more than last year's franchise low.

"Offensively, it was tough. It was a challenging year for us," receiver Lee Evans said. "I believe we have the pieces in place, and we just have to put it all together."

One piece that must be replaced is offensive coordinator. Steve Fairchild was hired to take over at Colorado State.

Finding Levy's replacement, though, will be key.

Levy said he'll spend the next two or three weeks helping with the transition. Then he plans to return to his home in Chicago.

"I feel compelled to now turn my energies and my time to other endeavors that intrigue me," Levy said. "There will always remain a part of me, however, that walks down that tunnel out onto the playing field at Ralph Wilson Stadium on those excitement-charged autumn Sunday afternoons."

Levy's departure will be felt throughout the NFL.

"Any time a man like that leaves the game, the game is poorer for it, and certainly the Bills will miss him and the NFL will miss him," said Colts president Bill Polian, who served as the Bills' GM when Levy was the team's coach.

"First of all, he restored the professionality of the franchise, and he brought in a coach that I think was outstanding," Polian said. "I know [Jauron] shares [Levy's] values, and he clearly has the team on the right track."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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