Marv Levy Interview

As always, I had a tough time keeping up with Marv, in just the short time we spoke I think I must have expanded my vocabulary. He is a man of great integrity. He always instilled great emotion into his players and treated his players with the respect he treated anyone his age. With the questionable coaching thus far this season, it's left a lot of fans wishing and reflecting for the good old days when Marv was at the head. Which is why we decided to conduct this interview.

This interview was done back in October. We decided to re-post the interview due to the coaching changes and the relevance of Marv's comments to the situation.

Keith Jasper: Well Marv, the first thing I want to hit on is whether or not the Tampa Bay Buccaneers contacted you for the head coaching job 2 years ago before John Gruden took the spot?

Marv Levy: I was not in the picture, not interviewed, or anything else for the Tampa Bay job. I was not interviewed.

Keith: So Marv, you've been out of Buffalo since the 1997 season, what have you been up to since then and also since you left Fox Sports?

Marv: Well I have been doing some television work, I did the Bills preseason games the past few years. I've done radio call-on shows in Buffalo and some in Chicago, some called "The Score", once a week. I do a column for NFL.com, as you very well know. I'm doing some motivational speaking. I'm doing a variety of localized types of radio work.

I go back to Buffalo each week to do a radio pre-game show in conjunction with Larry Felser, Howard Simon, and Josh Mora.

I'm going to do one of the pre-game shows for Fox when the normal crew is out of town. Fox said they would like to have me do some games as an analyst. So, you know I've stayed on top of it from that standpoint. I'm very much in it.

Keith: As you know, Kent Hull - along with many other players you coached - is eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, and my question is how do you feel to know that you influenced those players in so many ways?

Marv: Yeah well, I tell you, I was gratified to see his name on the list of nominees. Linemen work so much an obscurity and yet, I along with everyone else in our organization and teammates knew what a fabulous individual Kent was in helping our team achieve those AFC Championships. He is deserving in every respect; his ability, his intelligence in playing the game, his team orientation, and his leadership qualities. It would be hard to find something ill to say about Kent.

You know, a lineman has no statistics to point to. So sometimes the guy that is quieter doesn't grab the attention, but he merits it as well as anyone that is in the Hall of Fame. I've tried to call him about 4 times to try and congratulate him and I haven't reached him yet, but I'm going to eventually. I think it's so deserving and I was very, very happy to see his nomination.

Keith: The fans in Buffalo are pretty tough, as you know, they're already calling out Gregg Williams, what is your take on that?

Marv: You know, I think fans almost everywhere are responsive to how the team is doing. There is, usually overreactive sentiments to when you win you're glorified beyond your abilities and when you lose you're castigated beyond the faults you deserve. I think this prevails everywhere. I travel around the country and no matter what town I go into, I hear them.

Take the Chicago fans, right now they're very disturbed with the Bears organization. Of course, the Bears have only won one game. So in other words, it goes with the territory. And the only way you correct it is to win. You can't let it distract you too much or you won't make sound judgements. Are you aware of it? Yes. Would you prefer it's not there? Of course you would prefer it's not there. Even the President of the United States, when they take the polls, gets about a 56% approval rating.

Keith: Do you see anything different from Bills fans now then from when you were head coach?

Marv: Not really, their expectancies are high, they made some great off-season moves that were promising. They brought in Drew Bledsoe.

I was fortunate; I got there at a fortunate time. They had been losing, losing, losing, but as a result, just I had walked in there they had acquired Jim Kelly. Bruce Smith was a young guy on the team; Andre Reed was there, we had a bunch of high draft choices such as Thurman Thomas. So as we got better quickly, the fans became wonderfully supportive. I think the fans in Buffalo are superb fans, I really do. They support their team well; they attend the games well in what amounts to relatively a much smaller market than other teams in the league.

Keith: Play analyst and break down the Bills for me.

Marv: I think they're going though some tough times. It's a 16 game season, they've played 6 of them, they're not even halfway through it. They are in a position to rally. I think they have the tools to rally. I know it's difficult and the pressures mount with each loss.

I certainly wouldn't despair, I think they are a lot stronger group than they have been in the past few years.

Keith: As a coach, what can you do if the players aren't executing?

Marv: Well Keith, you're talking about fundamental things. There are no quick switches. The worst thing you could do is install a new offense. That's the worst thing you could do. You just have to get better. If you run, kick, throw, catch, block, and tackle better than your opponent, you're gonna win. I don't care if you are running the West Coast offense, the zone blitz, the no-huddle, or whatever the heck it is. It's a matter of execution; it's a matter of confidence building by repetitions.

I think you need to go back to work and don't point fingers. Everybody assumes responsibility. You make a plan and you go to work on it. There's no 'Hey guys, this is the cure!' There's no magic medicine out there for it.

Keith: How important is it to establish and build confidence in a running game?

Marv: None of these things are ever isolated from everything else that happens in your offense. If you fall behind, you're going to have to abandon you running game. I think the Bills ran the ball 14 times in the first half on Sunday, that put them on a pace for 28, and if you get ahead you're probably on pace for 35. But you fall behind; they only ran the ball 5 times in the second half. And why? They simply go in trouble covering kicks. That was the biggest problem they had, covering kicks.

I saw Brian Mooreman's punting average early in the year and I said 'Be careful here, he's punting for great distance,' but you know it's pretty hard to cover long low kicks, I don't know if he's kicking low or not. I also don't know what constituted those returns.

You're running game depends on not getting behind and not getting into trouble. I think they came out with the idea that they were going to run, particularly with Travis Henry healthy again. But when they fall behind like they did for other reasons, then you're in trouble. They turned the ball over 4 times and got no takeaways, you're not going to win that way.

Keith: What is your take on Willis McGahee?

Marv: He was a great prospect. I didn't study him like I was in preparation for drafting him, but I remember back when we selected Thurman Thomas in the 2nd round. Many teams didn't want him because he had a history of a bad knee that hadn't been reconstructed. He came along fine.

I don't know where McGahee is in his recovering, but just inserting him into the lineup, and that's the answer? No.

Keith: Do you think the Bills have talent to be a playoff contender and bounce back from a 3-3 start?

Marv: I do on both of those.

Keith: You've probably heard the uproar of the fans about Gregg Williams and many fans even nominating you as a replacement.

Marv: That is sort of a subject that I'm very uncomfortable responding to. It's unfair from my standpoint to speculate on anything. I just sort of shy away from the topic when it comes up and I think I just now explained the reason why.

Keith: Have any teams shown interest in you since your departure from Buffalo?

Marv: There were some. There were 2. There were 2 where the General Manager wanted me but the owner thought I was too old. The General Managers were right and the owners were wrong.

Keith: Well Marv, I think that's about it. I thank you for your time and kindness. I enjoyed it and I really appreciate it.

Marv: Well Keith, I just hope it has been helpful to you, and you're very welcome.


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