Rebuilding Colts' offense Marchibroda's top priority

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK

July 26, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Jack Trudeau knew of Ted Marchibroda's reputation as a quarterbacking guru long before Marchibroda was appointed coach of the IndianapolisColts for the second time last January. If there was any doubt in Trudeau's mind about the validity of that reputation, he says it was removed last April.

Trudeau, the Colts' backup quarterback behind franchise player Jeff George, unknowingly had dropped down in his throwing motion in recent years, from straight over the top to three-quarters. He also had incurred a perplexing sore shoulder in the process. During some introductory April workouts, Marchibroda was quick to note the difference.

"Every time you throw crisp, accurate passes, it's over the top," Marchibroda told Trudeau. "When you drop down, you don't throw as well."

Trudeau went back to straight overhand throws. The soreness in his shoulder disappeared, his passes took on new zip. It was an old chapter, but new verse, in Marchibroda's book on coaching quarterbacks.

It was no less revealing when Marchibroda dug out old quarterback films from the early 1970s featuring Roman Gabriel, Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer, all of whom came under Marchibroda's influence.

"He can show you things they did back then, how it transfers to today and how it still works," Trudeau said, marveling at the films.

Marchibroda, who has a grandfatherly visage at age 61, is attempting to turn back the clock this summer. He wants to return the Colts to the glory days of 1975-1977, when they won three straight division titles.

He wants to bring back the winning ways, and what's more, he says he expects to.

"When I first took the job in 1975, I had been an assistant coach for 14 years," said Marchibroda, who opened training camp for rookies last week in Anderson, Ind. "Then, you're hoping you can win. At this stage, I feel within myself I should win."

Turning around a franchise that went 1-15 a year ago and has a long run of futility is no small challenge. Yet, when it comes to turnarounds, Marchibroda has history on his side.

In 1974, the Colts went 2-12. A year later, with the soft-spoken disciple of George Allen as their coach, they went 10-4 and won the AFC East. It was the greatest one-year turnaround in NFL history. Not surprisingly, Marchibroda was voted Coach of the Year.

It was the memory of what Marchibroda accomplished in Baltimore, and the sorry state of the Colts in 1991, that prompted general manager Jim Irsay to hire Marchibroda back 13 years after his father and owner, Bob Irsay, had fired him.

"Ted was tailor-made for the job," Jim Irsay said. "When I interviewed a couple of young coaches, I told them, 'You don't understand what you're going into here. You have to be a head coach, a psychiatrist, a father, coach, businessman. You have to be involved in personnel.' I knew Ted would not come in wondering what it's like to walk into a room and have a lot of skeptical eyes on him."

With 29 years of coaching in the NFL, including the past five with the Buffalo Bills, Marchibroda fit the specifications. He even allowed the Colts to retain defensive coordinator Rick Venturi, who had replaced Ron Meyer as coach five games into 1991.

"I've always had great respect for Ted," Venturi said. "I like him as a man and a coach. He's not hung up on every trend and he doesn't have a big ego.

"When it came down to he or I [for the coaching job], that was one situation I could handle. A lot of situations, I may not have been able to handle."

The Colts are a team that badly needs Marchibroda's offensive expertise. They set an NFL record for fewest points (143) in a 16-game schedule. They went five straight games without a touchdown. George was sacked 56 times as the Colts went through 15 different players in an injury-riddled offensive line. Former All-Pro running back Eric Dickerson, suspended for three games in midseason, averaged just 3.2 yards a carry. Problems were everywhere.

"Injuries definitely made things difficult," said Trudeau. "[But] guys got complacent in their job. It got to the point that the running back didn't know what anybody else was doing. He'd walk into the huddle knowing the quarterback would tell him what to do."

Trudeau expects Marchibroda's biggest immediate impact to be the approach to the game.

"He talked to us quarterbacks about what he wants in way of preparation," Trudeau said. "Before, it was 'Do what you think you need to do and as long as you do your job, that's fine with us.' Ted's philosophy is, 'Here's what we're going to do whether you like it or not.'

"I think Jeff needs more leadership in that area. He's got to spend more time watching film and studying opponents. Jeff's the type of guy who likes to step out on the field and make it happen. I'm always amazed when he's been successful doing it that way."

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