Gibbs loosens up Levy won't smile Coaches reflect mood of teams

January 25, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Correspondent

MINNEAPOLIS -- Marv Levy did it once before, and he wasn't going to do it again.

Asked to pose for photographers with the Super Bowl's Lombardi Trophy at the final round of media interviews yesterday, the Buffalo Bills coach took a rain check.

Levy called it pretentious to pose with the trophy. He said he posed a year ago, before Super Bowl XXV, with the understanding the pictures would not be run until after the game -- and only if the Bills won.

The pictures ran on the Saturday before the game, the Bills didn't win and Levy decided never again.

"Until it's ours, I don't think it's appropriate," he said.

Levy, who posed with a Bills helmet instead, may not get a second chance. The Bills are seven-point underdogs to the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXVI tomorrow, and there are those who wonder if the Bills aren't uptight about their return date in the NFL's championship game.

The silver-haired Levy, who is 63 and professorial in appearance, prefers to say the Bills are businesslike. But his businesslike turn on the podium yesterday was in contrast to the laid-back and country style of his Redskins counterpart Joe Gibbs.

Gibbs told stories about his family, about former Redskin Dexter Manley, and about some coaches he had worked for previously. He showed the nation's media a side of himself that not many had seen before.

Asked whether he coaches his players on how to respond in interviews, Gibbs said: "At the start of the season, the only thing I say is, 'Don't help somebody get ready to play us. Use common sense.' "

He then illustrated his point with a tale about Manley, whose colorful dialog with writers routinely wore out the coach.

"Dexter would spout off," said Gibbs, "and I'd say to Dexter, 'You'll probably get hurt the second play and be standing over here with me, and all the people you called names are going to be out killing everybody else on our team. It's not an individual game.' "

Gibbs also told the story of how his two older sons, after watching their father work, did not want to adopt a coach's lifestyle.

Gibbs' reputation as a coach who sleeps nights in his office preceded him to Minneapolis. Levy joked about that reputation before coming to the Super Bowl.

"He's a real nice fellow," Levy said, "but I don't know if he's the kind of guy I'd want to spend New Year's Eve with."

Levy said his players are more businesslike at this year's Super Bowl than they were last January.

"I really like the approach they have taken," he said. "It hasn't been an uptight, grim approach. But it's been very businesslike on the field. You walk into those meetings, you can hear a pin drop. They're paying attention."

Much has been made this week of the coaching matchups, as well. The consensus is that Gibbs and his assistant head coach for defense, Richie Petitbon, will outcoach Levy and his offensive coordinator, Ted Marchibroda.

Levy takes exception to that sentiment.

"Joe Gibbs and Richie Petitbon are outstanding coaches, superior coaches," he said. "If, indeed, they succeed in outcoaching me, they will not succeed in outcoaching [defensive coordinator Walt] Corey and Marchibroda. That's why I hired them, by the way.

"Joe has earned his reputation as an outstanding coach because of his long-term success. I don't think -- and this is no knock on Joe -- that there is such a thing as the outstanding coach in the NFL. There are too many good ones. They know their business and know it well.

"I'm more concerned with whether our team outplays their team."

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