One thing that puzzles me in all this discussion of Marv Levy's future is the widely held notion that he is destined for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The way some people talk, you'd think the Bills coach had one foot inside the door at Canton. You'd assume his credentials were unassailable, his election a lock, his qualifications beyond dispute.
My question is, why? I don't get to vote on the Hall of Fame. If I had one, though, Levy wouldn't get it. True, he is the only man to get his team into four consecutive
Super Bowls. But after watching him with an objective eye for several years, I've decided he simply does not measure up to the elevated standards of the Hall of Fame.
During the Super Bowl run, I often wondered if people should give him more credit. All those victories wore you down after awhile. But after watching Levy struggle to rebuild his team over the last four seasons, I'm convinced he was never more than a good coach who was surrounded by great players in the early '90s and managed not to screw it up -- until the Super Bowl, that is.
He was a caretaker, an administrator, a man who delegated authority and relied on his players to motivate themselves. It worked while he had half a dozen iron-willed, Hall of Fame-caliber players in their primes, but once the locker room got old and the talent level began to thin, Levy's shortcomings became more and more evident.
No one has ever referred to Levy as a genius, and for good reason. He is an offensive-minded coach with no defining offensive philosophy of his own. Over the years, he has looked to assistants for an offensive philosophy. He was too slow to recognize the need for change. And when the time came, he handed off to someone else. There was never any sense that this was Marv Levy's vision of offense being expressed on the field.
He embraced the no-huddle only after Jim Kelly complained about Buffalo's predictable attack. The no-huddle was Ted Marchibroda's offense, not Levy's. When Marchibroda left, Levy gave the offense to Tom Bresnahan, an offensive line coach with no credentials for the job.
When Bresnahan failed, Levy turned things over to Dan Henning, one of the biggest frauds ever to set foot in Western New York. Only a hands-off leader like Levy could have committed to a two-tight end, power attack with the woeful offensive personnel the Bills had at their disposal.
No doubt, Levy continues to coach at age 72 because he wants one more shot at a Super Bowl win. I also suspect he wants to put the positive, finishing touches on his coaching legacy.
He might be doing just the opposite. The longer he hangs on, the easier it is to put his career, and his weaknesses, in perspective. The more you observe Levy's passive coaching style, the clearer your understanding of Super Bowl XXV -- a coaching meltdown on both sides of the ball.
Of course, Levy never takes any blame for that loss. He never accepts blame for anything. When things unravel, he huddles with his dutiful owner, Ralph Wilson, and decides which assistant coach or player or executive to toss over the side of the boat. He is the Teflon coach. But he can't have it both ways. If he is not ultimately responsible in the bad times, there's no reason to bestow ultimate credit on him for the Super Bowl teams, either.
It has become almost a cliche to suggest that Levy was "perfect" for those Bills teams of the early '90s. If getting a supremely talented team to the ultimate game four times without winning is your idea of perfection, maybe that's true. If I were a Bills fan, I'd much rather have seen an imperfect coach win it one time and not go back.
Over the years, many Bills players have said they wouldn't have made it back to the Super Bowl as many times if they'd won the first one. I agree. So in a real sense, Levy's run of four straight Super Bowl appearances was a result of his own pathetic coaching job in the first one.
Levy is a great guy. But he is not a great coach. If he stays much longer, people might even begin to realize he was never much more than average.