Wade Phillips succeeded Marv Levy as coach of the Buffalo Bills on Monday and made it clear this team has a long road back to the Super Bowl.

“People remember the Super Bowls," Phillips said. “This isn't a Super Bowl team. We have a big job to do, and we know that."

Phillips, the defensive coordinator under Levy, was the only person interviewed for the job, which was offered within 24 hours of his meeting with team owner Ralph Wilson last Friday.

Sources said Phillips signed a four-year deal averaging between $750,000 and $800,000 a season.

He follows the most successful coach in team history. Levy, who guided the Bills to four consecutive appearances — and losses — in the Super Bowl, retired Wednesday with a 123-78 record in 11-plus seasons.

“Certainly, I'm not Marv Levy," Phillips said. “I'm going to be my own man. There are going to be some changes. We're going to keep the first-class attitude and a lot of things that Marv started here."

The Bills have their work before them if they are to return to their glory days. Buffalo finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs for the second time in four years.

Phillips immediately made linebackers coach Ted Cottrell his defensive coordinator. The two worked closely together for three years and built the Bills' defense into one of the NFL's best.

A search started for an offensive coordinator to replace Dan Henning, fired Monday — along with four other assistants — after one season with the Bills. Buffalo's offense was largely blamed for the poor record. The defense was credited for the victories and keeping the score close in the losses.

That left Phillips the top candidate for Levy's job.

“The choice was very obvious," Bills general manager John Butler said. “Wade met all the qualifications. I remember (thinking) that this is the guy to replace a great coach. I believe we have another one coming."

Phillips has been a favorite of Buffalo players. Defensive end Bruce Smith and running back Thurman Thomas, among others, have said they respect Phillips for his calm demeanor and knowledge of the game.

“The fact that Marv Levy retired was devastating," Smith said. “Nobody was prepared for it. The best thing this organization could have done is hire Wade Phillips as head coach and Ted Cottrell as defensive coordinator."

Buffalo has promised to be active in free agency in hopes of turning around the franchise. It has the ninth pick in the NFL draft in April.

Phillips was 16-16 in two seasons in Denver before being fired. He spent 22 years in the NFL since being hired by his father, Bum Phillips, with the Houston Oilers in 1976.

“I am not the coach that will sit back and delegate," Phillips said. “I will delegate duties, but I'm going to be involved in the offense, special teams and defense.art of my strength is coaching, and I want to continue to do that. I want my imprint on this team."

The other assistants under Levy who were not retained were offensive line coach Tom Bresnahan, tight ends coach Don Lawrence, defensive backs coach Dick Roach and defensive line coach Dan Sekanovich.

Those staying are wide receivers coach Charlie Joiner, special teams coach Bruce DeHaven, assistant linebackers coach Chuck Lester and strength and conditioning coach Rusty Jones.

“Guys that fit with Marv Levy certainly aren't a natural fit with me," Phillips said. “They were great coaches for Marv. I'm starting anew. This is a new era."


Oakland has received permission from the New York Jets to talk to defensive coordinator Bill Belichick about its head coaching job, the Contra Costa Times reported today.

Belichick, who was Bill Parcells' defensive coordinator and assistant head coach with the New England Patriots in 1996, moved with him to the Jets in the same positions for the 1997 season.

His previous head coaching experience came in a less-than-successful stint with the Cleveland Browns from 1991-1995, when he went 36-44.

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The newspaper, citing an unidentified league source, supported an NBC-TV story Sunday reporting that the Raiders were interested in the 45-year-old Belichick.

The Raiders' job is not open yet, since the team has yet to announce its plans for Joe Bugel, who led Oakland to a 4-12 record in 1997 — their worst in 35 years. The Raiders have missed the playoffs for four straight seasons.

With Belichick running the Jets' defense, the team gave up 332.5 yards and 18 points per game. New York recorded 29 sacks, two fewer than the Raiders.


Wwide receiver Chris Walsh was charged with drunken driving when he was stopped just an hour after returning from San Francisco, where the Vikings lost a playoff game to the 49ers.

The Minnesota State Patrol stopped Walsh late Saturday near downtown. He was released from the Hennepin County Jail early Sunday, and charged with driving under the influence. He will have to appear in court at a later date.

Walsh's blood-alcohol level was .11, slightly above the legal limit of .10, according to the State Patrol.

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Walsh's attorney, Jerry Strauss, said Walsh was taking a muscle relaxant, which he said could have caused the high blood-alcohol level reading. But experts with the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension say that is highly unlikely.

A Vikings spokesman said alcohol is forbidden on team flights, and that was the case Saturday night.

Walsh is in his fifth year with the Vikings.


The NFL on Monday fined Miami Dolphins $40,000 in the case of the missing slippery shirt.

The league will never know if guard Jeff Buckey's jersey actually had an illegal slippery substance on it during the Dolphins' 33-30 win over the Detroit Lions on Dec. 7.

The jersey was mysteriously removed from the officials' locker room and washed before it could be sent to the NFL front office to be inspected.

The officials had ordered Buckey to the sideline on the game's opening drive when they suspected he may have had silicone on his jersey. NFL rules prohibit any adhesive or slippery materials on uniforms.

Buckey claimed innocence at the time. “I didn't put anything on it," he said.

Buckey had to remove the jersey and put on a new one for the game, and the officials put the suspect shirt in their dressing room. He only missed one play because the Dolphins scored on the play without him and he had a new shirt by the next series.

But when officials went to get the suspect shirt, it was gone.

Buckey could have faced a fine as well had the jersey been found to have an illegal substance on it.

Running back Lawrence Phillips, whose career was resurrected this season by Miami after he was shunned by other teams because of off-field troubles, is recovering from knee surgery.

The Dolphins said Monday that Phillips had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Friday to remove scar tissue. Barring any unforeseen complications, he is expected back in time for the team's spring minicamps.

After being released by the Rams, Phillips was picked up by Miami late in the season. He played in just two games with Miami, and finished the season with 44 yards on 18 carries and no touchdowns.

The Dolphins also announced that defensive end Shane Burton underwent surgery Monday to repair a torn rotator cuff muscle tear in his right shoulder. Burton was expected to be ready to play by the start of training camp in July.

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