Pro Football Hall of Fame Presents Countdown to Canton on Sirius NFL Radio. Listen each Friday morning from now through Enshrinement Day on August 8. Hosts Bob Papa and Randy Cross welcome a different Hall of Fame legend each Friday at 10 Eastern to talk some football. Don’t miss as these football greats share stories from their careers, to what it was like on their induction day, and a personal perspective on the Hall’s newest class – Bob Hayes, Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson, Jr. and Rod Woodson.
Stop by Profootballhof.com each week leading up to Bob and Randy’s interview. We’ll take a look back at that week’s featured Hall of Famer and recount his enshrinement day. The Hall’s research staff will also dig into the archives and hone in on events that helped shape the careers of these Hall of Fame legends.
This week’s guest: MARV LEVY, Class of 2001
Look it up, Thurman
Marv Levy holds the distinction of being the only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who earned a Masters Degree in English History from Harvard. His players often teased in a self-deprecating manner that Marv’s vast vocabulary often had them scratching their heads following one of his pre-game locker room speeches.
So, it was only fitting that Marv humorously acknowledged that reputation during his enshrinement speech that he delivered from the front steps of the Hall in the summer of 2001.
“I still recall the fearsome exhortations – look it up Thurman – of my high school coach,” Marv playfully called out his former running back Thurman Thomas.
One year later, Levy again found himself at the podium of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement. This time his role was as the presenter for Jim Kelly. Levy could not resist taking another shot at his players and again used Thomas as his target.
“Like many other coaches, “Levy started. “I've often been asked that enigmatic question - look it up, Thurman - the question being who was the best quarterback of all time?”
In 2007, Levy returned in the role of a presenter when Thomas asked his former coach to introduce him. Levy eloquently served that function but also took the opportunity to one more time poke fun at himself and his players.
Levy spoke fondly of Thurman’s family as he declared, “…all of them, too, will forever be part of the legacy that endures as a result of Thurman's prodigious exploits. Look it up, Thurman, prodigious.”
Humor aside, there is no doubt that the Bills were fueled by their head coach. His words, wisdom and leadership allowed the team and fans to enjoy the longest sustained success in franchise history.
Marv Levy, whose first head coaching job in the NFL came with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1978 to 1982, took over the reins of the Buffalo Bills midway through the 1986 season. The club had fallen on tough times marked by consecutive 2-14 records in 1984 and ’85.
He quickly changed the mindset of the team and success soon followed. By his second full season as Buffalo’s coach, Levy led the Bills to a 12-4 mark and the AFC Eastern Division crown. The division title was the first of six that the Bills would win over the next eight years.
But, it was an unprecedented run of Super Bowl berths in the early 1990s that defined Levy’s legacy to the sport. He guided the Bills to its first Super Bowl appearance following the 1990 season. Levy somehow rallied his team year after year. He managed to take Buffalo to four straight Super Bowls. The franchise remains the only team ever to achieve that feat.
Under Levy’s watch, the Bills had the highest winning percentage in the AFC from 1988 to 1997 and ranked second only to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL during that period.
Marv vs. Shula
Levy seemingly was at his best when facing some of the game’s finest coaches. During his career in Buffalo he was 6-1 against Dan Reeves and 8-5 versus Bill Parcells but it was his record against the game’s all-time winningest coach that was most impressive.
As the Bills’ head coach Levy compiled a 17-5 mark against Don Shula and the Bills’ archrival Dolphins. That record includes a perfect 3-0 in the playoffs with wins in the 1990 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, the 1992 AFC Championship Game, and the ’95 Wild Card Game.
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