Levy to resign as Bills GM

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Marv Levy stepped down as the Buffalo Bills general manager Monday, confident he has the team headed in the right direction despite a second consecutive 7-9 finish.

"It has been an experience that I have enjoyed immensely," Levy said in a statement released by the Bills. "Despite an unprecedented number of season-ending injuries, Dick Jauron, his coaching staff and an admirable core of high-character players are heading in the right direction."

"If my contributions to their efforts have been meaningful, I then take my leave from One Bills Drive, thankful and gratified," said Levy, who had a two-year contract.

The announcement came hours after the 82-year-old Hall of Fame coach opened the Buffalo's final team meeting by informing the players of his decision to move on.

The Bills failed to make the playoffs for an eighth straight year, the longest drought in franchise history, losing Sunday to Philadelphia, 17-9.

Levy, who had the option to renew his contract, informed the Bills of his desire to move on in a meeting with team owner Ralph Wilson last week.

"I will always be grateful for his service," Wilson said. "When we needed new focus and direction, Marv improved our organization's morale, attitude and environment: All of that, plus the stability we needed to move forward."

Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, Levy enjoyed his greatest success in Buffalo as the team's coach before retiring after the 1997 season. In 11-plus seasons, Levy posted a 112-70 record to become the franchise's winningest coach. He led the Bills to an unmatched four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the 1990s, but the team lost all four games.

The Bills turned to Levy once again in 2006, luring him out of retirement to take over as a first-time general manager after Tom Donahoe was fired.

Levy's first task was hiring Dick Jauron as coach, replacing Mike Mularkey, who resigned a week after Donahoe's firing.

It's not clear how the Bills will approach replacing Levy, although team owner Wilson has made clear he's very high on Jauron and the job he's has done in his second year with Buffalo.

Team owner Ralph Wilson told The Associated Press two weeks ago that he was impressed with how Jauron kept the team focused in overcoming a rash of injuries - Buffalo finished the season with 17 players on injured reserve - and disappointing losses.

Levy's role as GM was relatively undefined, although he provided input on the team's draft and personnel decisions, consulted with Jauron and stayed in close contact with Wilson, who lives in suburban Detroit.

He had a mostly hands-off approach in contract talks, leaving that to team vice president Jim Overdorf.

Levy, still, was credited for helping turn around a franchise that had alienated its fan base and endured several questionable coaching and personnel decisions under Donahoe.

Although the Bills have begun their rebuilding process through the draft, the team has not yet developed into a playoff contender. Buffalo's 14-18 record over the past two years matches how the team did in its previous two seasons under Mularkey.

The Bills have just 53 wins since 2000, tied with San Francisco for the fifth fewest in the NFL over that stretch - not including Houston, which rejoined the league in 2002.

Levy said he'll spend the next two or three weeks playing a role in the transition as the Bills determine his replacement. After that, he plans to return to his home in Chicago

"I feel compelled to now turn my energies and my time to other endeavors that intrigue me," Levy said. "There will always remain a part of me, however, that walks down that tunnel out onto the playing field at Ralph Wilson Stadium on those excitement-charged autumn Sunday afternoons."

Bills players wished him well.

"He let us know that he was comfortable in the state in which he was leaving the Bills," safety George Wilson said. "He seemed to be happy and eager and ready to move on to the next phase of his career."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.