Ted does double take on Baltimore

February 15, 1996|By KEN ROSENTHAL

It would be too funny.

Ted Marchibroda, fired twice by the Colts, leading the Baltimore NFLs into the Hoosier Dome next season for the Vengeance Bowl.

Put up or shut up, Irsays.

Winner gets the Colts name.

"Goodbye, Teddy," that's what the fans were singing at Memorial Stadium in 1979.

"Hello, Teddy," that's what Art Modell is warbling on his personal frequency -- all Colts, all the time.

It's wild, it's crazy, it's the most outlandish revival since the Beatles without John.

"You couldn't write this story," said New York Giants assistant GM Ernie Accorsi, who held the same position when the Colts fired Marchibroda in 1979. "It wouldn't be believable.

"Look what happened -- the ball bounced off the guy's chest, or he would have been in the Super Bowl. Then he gets fired, and now he might be coming back to Baltimore."

It's your basic 17-year hiatus.

And Bert Jones still insists Marchibroda never should have been fired in '79.

The former Colts quarterback, reached yesterday in Ruston, La., was overjoyed to learn that Marchibroda was on the verge of returning to Baltimore.

"I'll dance at the inauguration," Jones said, chuckling.

Whoa there, Bert.

Ted isn't going to be president. He isn't even going to be the general manager.

"GMs, I don't believe in them," owner Art Modell says.

No, Modell evidently prefers chaos.

Why didn't he fire player personnel director Mike Lombardi along with coach Bill Belichick yesterday? If he's going to clean house, he should clean house. Lombardi and Belichick didn't exactly develop a Super Bowl contender.

Two questions, Art:

Where's your personnel whiz?

And who's your next coach?

Marchibroda, 64, is a short-term solution, nothing more. He came within one play of taking the Colts to the Super Bowl last season, and his easygoing style will be a refreshing change for a team that tired of the ultra-intense Belichick.

Still, the irony is thick.

Thicker than a legislative manual on the sanctity of binding contracts, that's for sure.

Here's a coach who was criticized for being too conservative in the '70s.

Since then, we've gone from Three Dog Night to Snoop Doggy Dogg, but never mind.

It isn't often a team gets a chance to hire a coach who came within one play of reaching the Super Bowl. And it isn't often a man gets to complete his life circle in such fashion.

Twenty years ago, Marchibroda resigned after Bob Irsay stormed into the Colts' locker room and berated the players for losing a preseason game.

"Could Marchibroda be coaxed back?" The Evening Sun's Bill Tanton asked.

Little did Tanton know, he was two decades ahead of his time.

Marchibroda returned two days later after a player revolt, "the only wildcat strike in the history of the NFL," Jones said, laughing.

Who can forget general manager Joe Thomas racing down a fire escape to escape reporters at the team's training camp at St. Mary's Seminary?

Just another glorious chapter in Colts history.

Marchibroda won his power struggle with Thomas over personnel moves and began making questionable decisions. And in '79, after a second straight 5-11 season with Jones injured, Marchibroda was fired.

Attendance had declined sharply.

The players were divided in their loyalty.

And the newspapers were full of "Ted must go," citing Don Shula, of all people, as a possible replacement.

Jimmy Carter was president then.

The Berlin Wall fell, the computer age dawned, but the candidates to coach Baltimore's NFL team haven't changed.

This is so bizarre, so Baltimore -- and so fitting, in a roundabout sort of way.

Marchibroda was supposed to return 10 years ago as coach of the USFL's Stars, but the league folded. Fired as offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, he returned to the NFL only after Bobby Ross left the Buffalo Bills for Georgia Tech.

Remember?

Ross departed Maryland for his dream job in Buffalo, then bolted faster than you can say "Byrd Stadium."

"If Bobby Ross doesn't leave, who knows what would have happened?" Accorsi said. "That saved Teddy's career."

Marchibroda spent two seasons as Buffalo's quarterback coach, then three as offensive coordinator. The Colts rehired him as head coach on Jan. 28, 1992, then fired him for getting too close to the Super Bowl.

Goodbye, Teddy.

Hello, Teddy.

Time stands still, here in Charm City, here on Planet Art.

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