Monday, July 16, 2007

Marv Levy, Hall of Famer?

How did Marv Levy get into the Hall of Fame? I mean, I know he’s a beloved figure, a great guy, a WWII vet, etc.  But Hall of Fame?  There’s 21 coaches in the Hall of Fame and do you know what they all have in common for the most part?  They won a championship.  18 of them did.  In fact, 16 of those 18 coaches won multiple championships.  That’s what great coaches do.  Levy had lots of chances at a Super Bowl, but his teams managed to blow four in a row.  The two HOF coaches who won “only” a single title are John Madden, who still holds the NFL record for highest winning percentage, and Sid Gillman, (winner of the 1963 AFL crown) one of the all-time great offensive innovators.  That leaves two Hall of Fame coaches who, along with Levy, failed to win a single title: George Allen and Bud Grant.  Here’s the records of the three men:

George Allen116-47-5.705
Bud Grant158-96-5.620
Marv Levy143-112-0.560

Both Grant and Levy took teams to four Super Bowls and both lost every single time (both also won Grey Cups as coaches in the CFL but that means nothing when we’re talking about the Hall of Fame).  But Grant won more games than Levy and has a far better winning percentage.  I don’t know that Grant deserved to go in either but putting Levy after him in lowers the floor much more for future Hall of Fame coaches.  Allen only made it to one Super Bowl but his winning percentage is far, far higher than Levy’s.  Third-best ever.  And he turned around two terrible teams, the Rams and the Redskins.  On top of that, you might want to give him credit for his work as the defensive coordinator for the 1963 NFL champion Chicago Bears.  As Allen Barra put it: “[Allen] was the Bill Walsh of defensive coaches -- the most innovative defense man in modern NFL history, Buddy Ryan notwithstanding. He essentially invented zone defense and was the first to use the nickel-back.”

I suppose Levy was a bit of an innovator, coming up with the K-gun, but I don’t recall seeing a whole lot of teams trying to emulate what the Bills did, but I do see lots of teams using zone defenses and nickel backs.

Levy did coach a great team and going to four straight Super Bowls is sort of impressive.  Problem is that we’ve now lowered the bar for future HOF coaching candidates.  Take a look at these guys:

Marty Schottenheimer200-126-1.613
Dan Reeves190-165-2.535
Bill Cowher149-90-1.623
Mike Holmgren147-93-0.613
Mike Shanahan131-81-0.618
Tony Dungy114-62-0.648

Yeah, Schottenheimer never made a Super Bowl and his teams probably choked more than Levy’s (though the guy’s had some horrible luck in the postseason), but can you really turn away a guy with 200 wins?! He’s fifth all-time, his winning percentage is much higher than Levy, and Marty turned around three different teams.  You want a Super Bowl loser? How about Dan Reeves. He’s lost just as many as Marv.  Reeve’s winning percentage is a little lower but 47 more wins is a lot and, like Schottenheimer, he took three different teams to the playoffs. 

Cowher, Holmgren, and Shanahan all have a comparable win total to Levy, but all three have a much better winning percentage too.  Cowher and Holmgren have more playoff appearances and a ring each. Holmgren took two different teams to the Super Bowl, and while Shanahan hasn’t yet caught Levy in wins he’s got two Super Bowl rings.  If Levy’s in don’t those three guys all have to go in now?  (And I’m assuming Parcells was going in anyway but if Levy’s in the Tuna can’t be far behind now).  And what Tony Dungy?  He’ll have to coach a few more years to catch Levy in wins but he’s seventh on the all-time winning percentage list right now, he’s turned around two teams, and he won a championship.  Plus, of all the coaches discussed here, Dungy may be the one who’s made the biggest impact on the game thanks to the Cover-Two defense and the number of his former assistants who’ve become head coaches. 

Putting Levy in was a major break with HOF tradition.  And now that he’s in, there’s going to be a flood of coaches to follow.  It’s only fair.

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