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Marv Levy ranked 17th on list of 20 greatest NFL coaches

By Tim Graham

To celebrate what would've been Vince Lombardi's 100th birthday on June 11, ESPN is counting down its 20 greatest NFL coaches.

Buffalo Bills immortal Marv Levy came in at No. 17.

For the series, here's what Jim Kelly had to say about his coach:

"I think Marv Levy's biggest achievement is keeping his team mentally focused year after year after year, especially during that run of four Super Bowls. We went five years to the AFC Championship Game. Everybody knows you've got to be physically prepared for the game. If you're not, you're not going to make it. But to be able to mentally prepare your football team after a devastating loss, and forget about what happened the year before or the year before or the year before, and the resiliency our football team had, it started with Marv Levy. I know we wouldn't have gone to four Super Bowls in a row without Marv Levy.

"Probably the most influential thing about him was the way he handled the players on his team. If you remember, the guys we had -- Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Darryl Talley, Steve Tasker -- we had a bunch of different personalities, and we all had egos. Early on in Marv's career and our careers, we knew if we didn't come together as a team, it didn't matter how many superstars we had, we wouldn't make it. He made sure to make each individual understand that if we didn't put our egos to the side, we wouldn't achieve our goals. He could communicate to players in a way where we totally understood it. He was never the rah-rah, in-your-face type of guy. It was the old cliché: It's not what you said, but how you said it. Marv always knew what to say and how to say it.

"It clicked probably in 1988. The Bickering Bills came and I had something to do with that. Everybody did to a certain point. We went to the AFC Championship Game in 1988. We knew our football team was talented. In 1989, our egos started getting in the way, including myself. Marv knew what we could achieve, but we couldn't if we started pointing fingers at each other.

"To go back to back to back to back, that will never happen again. Nope. Period. The further we're removed from those games, the more people appreciate what we did. And it started with our head coach, Marv Levy."

Bills best and worst draft picks, from Tom Cousineau to Jim Kelly

By Tim Graham

NFL.com has been running a series of articles examining every team's best and worst draft picks since 1966, the start of the Super Bowl era.

The Bills' breakdown was posted today, with five finalists in each category accompanied by a poll that allows fans to select the superlative picks.

Best

  • • Jim Kelly, 14th overall in 1983
  • • Bruce Smith, first overall in 1985
  • • Thurman Thomas, 40th overall in 1988
  • • Andre Reed, 86th overall in 1985
  • • O.J. Simpson, first overall in 1969

Worst

  • • Mike Williams, fourth overall in 2002
  • • Aaron Maybin, 11th overall in 2009
  • • Tom Cousineau, first overall in 1979
  • • J.P. Losman, 22nd overall in 2004
  • • James Hardy, 41st overall in 2008

While it's difficult to argue with any of the "best" candidates, what about those longshots who had fine careers? Hitting on the first overall pick shouldn't be difficult. Simpson was a no-brainer in 1969.

I'd like to have seen one of those late-round fliers get consideration. Right tackle Howard Ballard was an 11th-round stab in 1987 but was a two-time Pro Bowler who started 10 NFL seasons. Defensive lineman Kyle Williams was a 2006 fifth-round pick who's gone to a couple Pro Bowls.

As for the "worst" candidates, I have a problem with Cousineau making the list. What made him a bad pick wasn't his talent -- he started more NFL games than 1972 first overall pick Walt Patulski -- but the fact he refused to sign with the Bills.

Besides, the Bills turned Cousineau into the draft pick that became Kelly. Without the Cousineau selection and the subsequent contract squabble, the Bills wouldn't have gotten their Hall of Fame quarterback.

Defensive tackle Torell Troup, taken one pick ahead of superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski in 2010, warrants a spot in the poll.

And why should Hardy be considered worse than Perry Tuttle (19th overall in 1982) or Tony Hunter (12th overall in 1983) or Erik Flowers (26th overall in 2000) or John McCargo (26th overall in 2006)?

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | [email protected]


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | [email protected]


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | [email protected]

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