It was 18 years ago that Bills Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy strode out to the sideline for his first Super Bowl as a head coach, and he did it in the same city that Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt will be doing the very same thing come Sunday evening.
Though Levy believes both men are prepared to handle the challenges that a game of this magnitude presents, in terms of preparing a team outside the confines of your own facility, he believes one thing stands out above everything else when it comes to getting your team ready.
"Focus is the key word in a week like this," said Levy. "In practice concentrate on practice, not the fact that it's a Super Bowl game. What's the proper technique for picking up this stunt. Make up your mind ahead of time that you're not going to get flustered by all the tugging at your shirt tail when it occurs because it's going to occur."
Levy experienced the media demands first hand in his first Super Bowl as head coach back in January 1991, but tried to embrace it for what it was.
"You know it's going to be hectic and it is when you get there," said Levy. "You have to go to the media sessions whenever they have them and you recognize that. It's going to happen, understand it, ride with it. Remember the game is popular because of three components, the participants and then the fans and media that make is so popular. Savor it. You're in an enviable position, enjoy it. Don't get overwhelmed by it."
What benefited Levy to some degree was the fact that he had already been to a Super Bowl prior to becoming a head coach. He was Washington's special teams coach in 1972 when George Allen's Redskins faced the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII. Knowing that both Tomlin and Whisenhunt have been to the Super Bowl before as assistants, Levy believes it will help them manage the week.
"They're working in a different environment, but they know it's going to be different," said Levy of Tomlin and Whisenhunt. "They've been in those different situations, so they probably know you better prepare ahead of time realizing that you can't do it exactly like you did it back at your home facility."
Tomlin served as a defensive backs coach on Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay staff that won Super Bowl XXVII, while Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator for Bill Cowher's Steelers team that won Super Bowl XL.
While the week leading up to the game may look on the outside like a mess in terms of logistics and media commitments and travel to and from practice, Levy maintains it's not as daunting for a team as it might appear.
"Really it is not as difficult as it might be perceived," he said. "You do a tremendous amount of planning prior and once you're there honestly you're almost in solitary confinement. You get back to the hotel and security gets you through and everything. You're really more isolated than one might perceive."
As for avoiding distractions Levy feels that should not be overemphasized by coaches.
"You've just got to concentrate on what's important," Levy said. "If you make too much of avoiding distractions, that becomes a distraction. When I was an assistant with the Redskins in 1972 our head coach George Allen kept harping and harping to the players to avoid distractions and look out for distractions and I walked through the hotel lobby one day and saw a few of our players looking bored as can be and they asked me, 'Where can we find all these distractions?'"
As for pre-game speeches, Levy believes for a game like the Super Bowl less is more.
"If you try to make it too emotional you're going to get tuned out by the players in my opinion," he said. "They'll roll their eyes. They don't care about being revved up. They care about chipping that defensive end that's so good."
Keeping the game the focus is the key as he sees it.
"Every game I ever coached, we'd have our Saturday night meeting and I would address something that I thought was extremely pertinent to that game, without trying to take their eyes off the fundamentals and execution," said Levy. "I didn't feel (the Super Bowl) needed a special address. They don't need any more revving up honestly. Sometimes they actually need calming down."