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
"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."
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."