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A LOOK AT THE LEVY ERA

It was 11 years, one month and 27 days ago that Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. named Marv Levy as the team's new head coach, replacing Hank Bullough.

Almost immediately, the Bills' fortunes started to rise. Buffalo defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Levy's first game, kicking off a remarkable run during which the Bills have won more than 60 percent of their games.

Levy's record as Bills coach stands at 123-78, and he ranks 11th in coaching victories on the NFL's all-time list.

By coaching 11 1/2 seasons, Levy lasted more than twice as long as any previous Bills coach. Chuck Knox had the second-longest continuous tenure in Buffalo, coaching five seasons, from 1978 to '82. Lou Saban coached the Bills for 8 1/2 years, but it was split into two stretches, from '62 to '65 and '72 to '76.

Here's a chronology of the highlights of the Levy Era in Buffalo:

1986

Nov. 3 -- Ralph Wilson fires Hank Bullough as head coach and replaces him with Marv Levy.

Nov. 8 -- Bills claim Steve Tasker off waivers from the Houston Oilers.

Nov. 9 -- Bills win in Levy's first game, 16-12, over Pittsburgh at Rich Stadium.

Dec. 21 -- Bills finish season 4-12 (2-5 under Levy) after 16-7 loss at Houston to clinch the No. 3 pick in the draft.

Dec. 22 -- Levy hires University of Maryland head coach Bobby Ross to be quarterback coach and fires six assistants from the Bullough staff.

1987

Jan. 5 -- Levy releases Bobby Ross from his commitment to the Bills so Ross can become head coach at Georgia Tech.

Jan. 13 -- Levy hires Walt Corey, who worked under him in Kansas City, to be defensive coordinator.

Jan. 16 -- Levy hires Ted Marchibroda as passing game coordinator and QB coach.

April 27 -- The Bills trade their No. 3 pick to Houston for the No. 8 overall pick and an extra second-round pick, then draft linebacker Shane Conlan in the first round.

May 11 -- John Butler is hired as director of player personnel and college scouting.

Oct. 25 -- The Bills rally from a 21-0 deficit to defeat Miami in overtime, 34-31, in their first appearance at Joe Robbie Stadium.

Oct. 31 -- The Bills make the biggest trade in team history, a three-way deal with Indianapolis and the Los Angeles Rams. The Bills acquire holdout rookie linebacker Cornelius Bennett from Indianapolis and trade away two first-round draft picks, a second-rounder and running back Greg Bell.

Nov. 7 -- On his first play as a Bill, Bennett forces a John Elway incomplete pass. The Bills defeat Denver, 21-14.

Dec. 27 -- Bills lose at Philadelphia, 17-7, to finish season 7-8.

1988

April 24 -- The Bills draft Thurman Thomas with the 40th choice overall, in the second round of the draft.

Sept. 4 -- The Bills defeat Minnesota, 13-10, for their first season-opening victory since 1982. Two days before, Bruce Smith was suspended for 30 days for violating the NFL's drug abuse policy.

Nov. 20 -- Bills clinch the AFC East title for the first time in eight years with a 9-6 overtime win over the New York Jets. Fans tear down the goalposts at Rich Stadium.

Dec. 11 -- The Bills defeat the L.A. Raiders, 37-21, at Rich and set an all-time NFL single-season attendance record of 622,793.

Dec. 28 -- Levy voted NFL Coach of the Year by United Press International.

1989

Jan. 1 -- The Bills play their first home playoff game in 22 years and defeat Houston, 17-10, with the help of two blocked kicks.

Jan. 8 -- Bills lose AFC title game at Cincinnati, 21-10.

Jan. 17 -- Levy is named NFL coach of the year by the Sporting News.

Feb. 6 -- Offensive coordinator Jim Ringo retires. Marchibroda assumes his title, and Tom Bresnahan is hired as offensive line coach.

May 14 -- Levy and general manager Bill Polian receive contract extensions through 1992, and Wilson gives both "lifetime guarantees" with the Bills.

Sept. 10 -- Jim Kelly scores on a 2-yard run on the final play of the game as the Bills win at Miami, 27-24, in the season opener.

Sept. 24 -- The Bills unveil the no-huddle offense on a part-time basis in a thrilling, 47-41, overtime win at Houston. Kelly throws for 363 yards.

Oct. 23 -- Assistant coaches Tom Bresnahan and Nick Nicolau are involved in a scuffle while watching film of a victory over the Jets.

Dec. 23 -- After enduring a three-game losing streak and several weeks of controversy that earn them a "Bickering Bills" label, Buffalo defeats the Jets, 37-0, to clinch second straight AFC East title.

1990

Jan. 6 -- Bills lose divisional playoff at Cleveland, 34-30, as Ronnie Harmon drops a Kelly pass in the end zone with 10 seconds left in the game.

Sept. 9 -- Bills open season with 26-10 victory over Indianapolis.

Sept. 30 -- Bills score 20 points in a 77-second span in the fourth quarter to stun Denver, 29-28.

Oct. 7 -- Bills fire Bill Polian after "personal differences" with Wilson. John Butler promoted to take his place.

Dec. 2 -- Using the no-huddle for much of the first half -- its most extensive employment to date -- Bills build a 24-0 lead, then hang on for 30-23 win over Philadelphia.

Dec. 23 -- Frank Reich, subbing for injured Jim Kelly, leads Bills to 24-14 win over Miami to clinch AFC East title.

1991

Jan. 12 -- Kelly returns and leads Bills to 44-34 playoff win over Miami.

Jan. 20 -- Bills crush Raiders, 51-3, to win AFC championship.

Jan. 27 -- New York Giants defeat Bills, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV as Scott Norwood misses 47-yard field goal attempt with 4 seconds left.

Jan. 28 -- Crowd of 20,000 welcomes Bills in rally at Niagara Square.

March 3 -- Levy signs three-year contract extension, through 1994, worth an estimated $500,000 a year.

Sept. 1 -- Bills open season with 35-31 shoot-out win over Miami at Rich.

Sept. 8 -- Bills produce their second highest scoring output in team history in 52-34 rout of Pittsburgh.

Sept. 15 -- Bills rally for 23-20 win over the Jets. Levy suggests the Jets feigned injuries to slow down the no-huddle offense.

Dec. 1 -- Bills clinch fourth straight AFC East title with 24-13 win over Jets.

Dec. 8 -- Bills win 30-27 thriller at L.A. Raiders by rallying from 27-14 deficit in final seven minutes of fourth quarter to send game into overtime.

Dec. 22 -- Team sets NFL single-season attendance mark of 635,889, breaking own record from 1988.

1992

Jan. 12 -- Carlton Bailey's interception return for TD helps Bills to 10-7 win over Denver in AFC title game.

Jan. 26 -- Bills get embarrassed in 37-24 loss to Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXVI.

Jan. 28 -- Ted Marchibroda leaves Bills to become head coach of Indianapolis Colts.

Jan. 31 -- Tom Bresnahan promoted as new offensive coordinator.

Sept. 13 -- In one of wildest shoot-outs in team history, Bills win at San Francisco, 34-31, in first NFL game played without a single punt attempt.

Dec. 27 -- Loss in regular-season finale at Houston costs Bills fifth straight AFC East crown, and Kelly injures right knee.

1993

Jan. 3 -- In greatest comeback in NFL history, Bills rally from 35-3 deficit to defeat Houston in overtime, 41-38, in wild-card playoff game at Rich. Frank Reich throws for 289 yards and four TDs.

Jan. 9 -- Reich leads 24-3 playoff victory at Pittsburgh.

Jan. 17 -- Kelly returns and Bills rout Dolphins, 29-10, in Miami for third straight AFC title.

Jan. 31 -- Dallas rolls to 52-17 victory in Super Bowl XXVII as Bills make record nine turnovers.

Feb. 4 -- Bill Polian fired from GM post due to "personal and professional differences" with Wilson. John Butler promoted to take his place.

March 29 -- Tackle Will Wolford receives three-year $7.65-million offer from Indianapolis, and Bills suffer first major loss via NFL's new free-agency system.

April 27 -- Levy receives three-year extension, through 1997, at an estimated $850,000 a year.

Dec. 12 -- Ten points in final 4 minutes gives Bills key, 10-7, win at Philadelphia, despite fact Kelly, Thomas and Andre Reed all missed the game due to injury.

Dec. 19 -- Bills win for seventh time in eight games at Miami, 47-34, to take first place in AFC East.

1994

Jan. 15 -- In coldest game ever at Rich (temperature 0, wind chill minus-32), Bills edge Raiders, 29-23, in divisional playoff.

Jan. 23 -- Thomas rushes for 186 yards as Bills rout Kansas City, 30-13, for fourth straight AFC title.

Jan. 30 -- After taking 13-6 halftime lead, Bills collapse in second half and lose to Dallas, 30-13, in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Dec. 24 -- Bills lose three straight to end season and miss playoffs for the first time in seven years with a record of 7-9.

Dec. 30 -- Walt Corey fired as defensive coordinator.

1995

Jan. 17 -- Wade Phillips hired as new defensive coordinator.

Feb. 25 -- Bills begin rebuilding defense by signing nose tackle Ted Washington.

March 9 -- Pro Bowl linebacker Bryce Paup signed as free agent from Green Bay.

Oct. 16 -- Levy announces he has prostate cancer and will miss the next several games to undergo treatment. Eli Pitts takes over as acting head coach and Bills go 1-2 in Levy's absence.

Dec. 17 -- Bills defeat Miami, 23-20, to win sixth AFC East title in eight years.

Dec. 30 -- Bills defeat Dolphins, 37-22 in divisional playoff, the final game of Miami coach Don Shula's career. Win is 17th for Levy in 22 games as Bills coach against Shula.

1996

Jan. 6 -- With Bruce Smith at home sick in bed with the flu, Bills lose at Pittsburgh, 40-21, in divisional playoff.

Sept. 8 -- Levy is inducted into Bills Wall of Fame.

Nov. 3 -- Kelly takes over greater control of play calling and Bills rebound from loss at New England to rout Washington, 38-13. Bills go on to win next three games to improve to 9-3.

Dec. 22 -- Three-game losing streak snapped with 20-9 win over Kansas City to clinch team's eighth playoff berth in nine years.

Dec. 28 -- Jacksonville shocks Bills, 30-27, in wild-card round, handing Buffalo its first loss in 10 playoff games at Rich.

Dec. 30 -- Center Kent Hull retires after 11 seasons with Bills.

1997

Jan. 22 -- Dan Henning hired as new offensive coordinator, taking place of Tom Bresnahan, who retains his job as offensive line coach.

Jan. 31 -- Kelly retires after 11 seasons with Bills.

Sept. 21 -- Bills mount second-largest comeback in NFL regular-season history, rallying from 26-0 deficit to defeat Colts, 37-35, at Rich.

Dec. 7 -- Bills eliminated from playoff contention after miserable, 20-3 loss at Chicago, in which offense manages just 10 first downs.

Dec. 20 -- Season ends at 6-10 as Bills lose to Green Bay Packers, 31-21.

Dec. 31 -- Levy announces retirement.

THE LEVY YEARS: 1986-1997
Year W L T Div/Place Playoff result
1997 6 10 0 AFC East (4) Did not qualify
1996 10 6 0 AFC East (2) Lost AFC wildcard
1995 10 6 0 AFC East (1) Lost AFC semifinal
1994 7 9 0 AFC East (4) Did not qualify
1993 12 4 0 AFC East (1) Lost Super Bowl XXVIII
1992 11 5 0 AFC East (2) Lost Super Bowl XXVII
1991 13 3 0 AFC East (1) Lost Super Bowl XXVI
1990 13 3 0 AFC East (1) Lost Super Bowl XXV
1989 9 7 0 AFC East (1) Lost AFC semifinal
1988 12 4 0 AFC East (1) Lost AFC final
1987 * 7 8 0 AFC East (4) Did not qualify
1986 ** 2 5 0 AFC East (4) Did not qualify
Total 112 70 0 Won 11, Lost 8
* Strike-shortened schedule
** Replaced Hank Bullough on Nov. 3, 1986
SOURCE: Buffalo Bills

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