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Bills hire Levy as VP of football operations

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (Jan. 5, 2006) -- Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy was hired as the Buffalo Bills' vice president of football operations, returning to the team he led to an unprecedented four straight Super Bowl appearances in the 1990s.

In becoming the NFL's oldest active front office executive, Levy -- who referred to himself as "an 80-year-old rookie" -- takes over a struggling team that's coming off a 5-11 season and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year. The move comes a day after the Bills fired president and general manager Tom Donahoe.

"We're bringing Marv back so that he can bring a stability to the Buffalo Bills," owner Ralph Wilson said.

Levy will be responsible for the team's football-related decisions and report directly to Wilson.

In dismissing Donahoe, Wilson reclaimed the role of team president and intends to take a more active role in football decisions. Assistant general manager Tom Modrak, who has served as the team's chief college scout, will also have his duties expanded to have additional say in pro personnel matters.

Levy is also expected to act as a mentor for coach Mike Mularkey, who was retained despite struggling in his second season with the team.

With a 112-70 record, Levy is the winningest coach in Bills history. He retired after the 1997 season and has since worked mostly as an NFL broadcaster while living in his native Chicago. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

Levy has remained a close confidante of Wilson, who was unhappy with the team's direction under Donahoe, and is confident that he'll quickly be able to adjust to life in the NFL again.

"The age factor means nothing to me," Levy said. "I'm old enough to know my limitations and I'm young enough to exceed them."

A Harvard-educated coach who would inspire his players with war stories and historical quotations, Levy was best known for the rallying cry he'd make before most every game: "Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?"

Although Levy had input in personnel decisions during his coaching career, his only previous front office experience came in 1985 when he served as director of football operations for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

Levy takes over a Bills team that went 31-49 in five seasons under Donahoe, and tied with Cleveland for the third-fewest victories in the NFL during that span. Besides Houston, which joined the league in 2002, the Bills are the only AFC team since 2001 that has failed to make the playoffs.

Among Levy's first priorities is evaluating his team's roster.

The Bills have four starters eligible for free agency, the most notable being cornerback Nate Clements.

Questions also remain whether the Bills can afford to keep veteran receiver Eric Moulds and offensive linemen Mike Williams, who represent significant salary cap hits unless they restructure their contracts for next season.

Moulds, a 10-year veteran, is the lone player left on the team from Levy's era.

Levy will also have to prepare for the draft in April. The Bills have the eighth overall pick.

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