In the tight-knit fraternity of NFL executives and coaches, Ted Marchibroda's return to Baltimore was viewed as vindication for a man it believes wasn't treated fairly by the Indianapolis Colts last week.
"That's fabulous," San Diego Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard said when told of Marchibroda's hiring yesterday as coach of Baltimore's NFL team.
Marchibroda is liked and respected by his peers, and most executives were stunned when the Colts offered him only a one-year contract after he took the team to the AFC title game in January. When Marchibroda requested a longer deal, the offer was withdrawn and he was fired.
"That was a tough time," Beathard said. "I tried to call him. Ted was the topic of conversation [at the scouting combine in Indianapolis last week]. It was terrible. That's the way everybody felt."
Carolina Panthers president Mike McCormack, who coached with Marchibroda on the 1972 Washington Redskins Super Bowl team and replaced him as Baltimore Colts coach in 1980, said, "That was the buzz in Indianapolis. It was a great vindication of Ted."
Most NFL executives believe the low-key Marchibroda is a good choice to stabilize the former Cleveland Browns team, which was torn apart by turmoil last season after owner Art Modell announced he was moving the club.
"The players believe in him and what he says." McCormack said. "He's a good football technician. He gets the players skilled in fundamentals. He gets the team prepared to play. He's not an egotist.
"He is perhaps the greatest developer of quarterbacks I've ever been around. He had [Roman] Gabriel out in Los Angeles and then worked with two diverse personalities in Sonny [Jurgensen] and Billy [Kilmer] in Washington.
"He went to Baltimore and Bert Jones had his best years. And look at the job he did with [Jim] Harbaugh [in Indianapolis].
"The last time in Baltimore, he got the bad rap of relying on the run too much, but at the same time he took them to the playoffs. He's an outstanding coach."
As an assistant coach with the Buffalo Bills, Marchibroda altered his style and helped develop the no-huddle offense with Jim Kelly as quarterback.
Marv Levy, the Buffalo coach who hired Marchibroda in 1987, said, "I thought he was an ideal guy working with Kelly. He's a good teacher and can weather the storm when the boat gets a little rocky."
Jack Butler, head of the BLESTO scouting service who was a teammate of Marchibroda's in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, believes Marchibroda has no trouble communicating with today's generation of players even though he's 64.
"He can get along with the young guys. Some guys can't do that," he said. "He wasn't flamboyant in any way, shape or form. He was pretty conservative, but he was smart and used his head."
Said New York Giants GM George Young: "He's an honest
person and a good character guy. I don't remember anybody ever speaking ill of the guy since I've been in the league. He's very well-respected."
Kansas City Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose team was upset by Marchibroda's Colts in the playoffs last month, said: "He's a wonderful person and a guy with great dignity."
Beathard said that when Marchibroda was fired by the Colts last week, the Indianapolis fans sympathized with him.
"I was in a cab at the scouting combine with Billy Devaney [Chargers player personnel director] and we were talking with the driver about Ted. He said, 'I've never heard a bad word about Ted.' He's a pretty special guy."