Marchibroda turns drill into Bills game plan

January 22, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK — ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Ted Marchibroda still stands on the sidelines, his arms folded with one hand under his chin, looking like a man who just lost his best friend.

You remember Marchibroda? Baltimore Colts coach from 1975 through 1979. His Colts won American Football Conference East titles from 1975 through 1977.

Despite winning in Baltimore, Marchibroda acquired one bad rap -- boring offense. During his time with the Colts, some Baltimore TTC fans described Marchibroda's offense as "Hi diddle-diddle, Lydell up the middle" in reference to Marchibroda's use of halfback Lydell Mitchell.

But they love Marchibroda these days in Buffalo, where he has been the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills the past two seasons.

The man who was called boring in Baltimore is the inventor of the no-huddle passing attack that routed the Los Angeles Raiders, 51-3, Sunday in the AFC championship game. The week before, the Bills registered 44 points against the Miami Dolphins.

The Bills had 502 yards total offense Sunday. They ran for 202. Quarterback Jim Kelly passed for 300. And when the game was over, and it was Kelly's moment to stand in the spotlight, he let quite a bit of it shine on Marchibroda, who joined the staff in January 1987 as quarterbacks coach

and passing-game coordinator.

"Nobody, including myself, thought we could score 51 points against these guys," said Kelly, who competed his first seven passes en route to a 17-for-23 passing performance Sunday.

"But Ted Marchibroda is the one who gets us ready during the week, and I give him all the credit," said Kelly. "He does an excellent job, not only teaching myself, but Frank Reich and Gale Gilbert [reserves] in the meetings.

wouldn't be able to do it without him, because he puts in the plays and he tells us when to call them and what time to do them. I call the plays, but Ted is a big, big plus for our offense."

Marchibroda, 59, decided to go to the no-huddle, one-back for the entire game at the end of last season, but didn't implement it until this season.

"It was a couple of things," said Marchibroda, whose team led the league in scoring this season with 428 points. "My first year here, we were down by two TDs against Houston with four minutes to play and Jim brought us back. Now, last year, there we were three times when we had to score the last two times we had the ball to win -- the Rams, Miami and Houston. So I said to myself, 'If it's so successful at the end of the half and the end of ballgames, why would it not be successful during the regular course of the game?' "

Marchibroda had all the weapons. Kelly had a strong arm and could call his own plays, running back Thurman Thomas could catch as well as run and Andre Reed gave the Bills speed on the outside.

The final piece arrived with the addition of veteran wide receiver James Lofton early last season.

Now, after one full year in the offense, Thomas has been NFL's total offense leader the last two seasons, the revitalized Lofton was third on the team in receiving and Reed generally is considered one of the most

dangerous receivers in the league.

"What Ted did was bring in all the weapons together, let everyone read the field, then let Jim make the final call," said Lofton. "In the final two minutes, you want Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson with the ball. We want Jim to have it, but now it's for the entire game."

Kelly's relationship with Marchibroda has developed into one of mutual trust. Nearly a year ago, Kelly, along with Buffalo fans, branded Marchibroda's offense as conservative and unimaginative. At one point, even Bills owners Ralph Wilson started second-guessing Marchibroda.

His critics said the game had passed Marchibroda by. Now, some are wondering when the rest of the league is going to catch up.

"We've allowed Jim to audible much more, which takes advantage of game situations," Marchibroda said. "In the past, we had a limited amount of audibles, and sometimes he couldn't get out of a bad play. We also had a limited amount of talent. We just weren't surrounded with championship people. Now, we have more, and we're getting them in the game at the same time."

Marchibroda pointed out he has worked with quarterbacks such as the Rams' Roman Gabriel, the Redskins' Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer and the Colts' Bert Jones. "I feel I've been successful when I've had a good quarterback," Marchibroda said. "They were all championship years."

* Bills pay off

The leaders behind the Buffalo Bills' high-powered offense (regular-season statistics):

.. .. .. .. .. .. Rushing

Player.. .. .. .. Att... .. Yds. .. .Avg.. ..TD

Thomas.. .. .. .. 271.. .. 1297.. .. 4.8.. 11

K. Davis.. .. .. .. 64.. .. . 302.. .. 4.7.. . 4

.. .. .. .. .. .. Passing

Player.. .. . Com.-Att... .. Yds... .. TD.. Int.

Kelly.. .. .. 219-346.. .. 2829.. .. 24.. . 9

Reich.. .. .. .. 36-63.. .. . 469.. .. . 2.. . 0

.. .. .. .. .. ..Receiving

Player.. .. .. .. Rec... .. Yds... . Avg.. TD

Reed.. .. .. .. .. 71.. .. .. 945.. ..13.3.. . 6

Thomas.. .. .. ... 49.. .. .. 532.. . 10.9.. . 2

Lofton.. .. .. .. .35.. .. .. 712.. . 20.3.. . 4

K. McKeller.. .. . 34.. .. .. 464.. . 13.6.. . 5

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