Marchibroda blitzes Steelers for coordinator Pitt. linebacker coach to head defense here

Ferentz stays

Strock hired

To maximize pressure, Lewis hopes to convert 4-3 alignment into 3-4

February 28, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

BEREA, Ohio -- The walls in his office are bare, and the only picture on his desk is that of the pope.

It has been a hectic period in the life of Ted Marchibroda, long days followed by short nights. He has moved his furniture from a house he rented in Indianapolis to a home he owns in Falls Church, Va.

His wife, Ann, stays in Virginia while Marchibroda sleeps in a Cleveland hotel. Within the next two months, the Marchibrodas will have to find a house in Baltimore.

"One of my philosophies is that you have to know what you need to get done, and prioritize," said Marchibroda, 64. "These 16-hour workdays, I'm used to it. Most of my time has been here interviewing or phoning candidates for assistant coaching jobs. I figured once the assistants are in place, a lot of things will take care of themselves."

A major piece fell into place yesterday when Baltimore hired Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Marvin Lewis, 37, as the team's defensive coordinator.

Baltimore also hired former Miami Dolphins quarterback Don Strock as its quarterbacks coach, and retained former Cleveland Browns staffer Kirk Ferentz as the assistant head coach on offense.

Ferentz also will work with the offensive line, and is regarded as one of the best in the league.

Lewis, who had been with Pittsburgh since 1992, is the third African-American defensive coordinator in the

league -- joining Emmitt Thomas of the Philadelphia Eagles and Willie Shaw of the St. Louis Rams.

He helped the Steelers' defense finish in the top three in the NFL, and had one of the best linebacking corps, led by All-Pros Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene. Pittsburgh had 97 sacks the past two seasons, and 63 1/2 came from the linebackers.

Marchibroda interviewed Lewis on Sunday, and he accepted the job yesterday.

"He has a tremendous presence about him," said Marchibroda, who will conduct a two-week minicamp at the Owings Mills complex beginning about April 27. "He didn't come in selling himself, but he was himself. He has a bright mind, and has total command and control of that Pittsburgh defense. A lot of teams are now trying to use a similar scheme."

Before yesterday, Marchibroda had no idea of what scheme he might play. Now, Baltimore has found the answer. Lewis eventually will convert the former Browns' 4-3 defense to a 3-4.

The Steelers blitzed linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties, and

sometimes dropped defensive linemen into zone coverage.

It was maximum pressure.

"I'd like to have a similar scheme in Baltimore," said Lewis. "In Pittsburgh, we set out to stop the run. We want to chase the ball, force take-aways and force other teams into passing situations. Everybody gets excited when you're out to sack the quarterback.

"We'll have to sit down and evaluate the talent on this team," said Lewis. "If we have better linebackers than defensive linemen, we can play a 3-4. If we can get some linebacking help through the draft or free agency, then we still might be able to play this scheme."

Right now, Baltimore would have to play a 4-3 because the defensive line has solid players in Larry Webster, Anthony Pleasant and Rob Burnett. Baltimore could use another defensive tackle and a cornerback, but the team's most glaring weakness is at linebacker. Only middle linebacker Pepper Johnson played well last season.

Ozzie Newsome, the team's director of pro personnel, says the team probably won't get into the free agency derby until June, so the team might go after a linebacker in the April draft.

Baltimore, which has two first-round picks -- including the No. 4 selection -- will take a hard look at Kevin Hardy of Illinois, Kutztown's John Mobley, Texas A&M's Reggie Brown, Arkansas' Steven Conley and Temple's Lance Johnstone.

There are fewer holes to fill offensively, and Marchibroda expects to run the same multiple-set offense he used with Indianapolis. A little two back. Mix in some one back. Use three- and four-receiver sets to spread out the defense.

"Football has remained basic in some sense, but has changed in others," said Marchibroda. "Teams that block and tackle the best still win games, but defensive coverages are more complicated now than ever before. Players are bigger and faster, and you have to spread the field now. You just have to go with the flow."

Wherever Marchibroda has coached, he has always had a halfback who complemented his running with receiving. It was Lydell Mitchell when Marchibroda coached the Baltimore Colts in the mid-1970s.

Then it was Thurman Thomas as Marchibroda's go-to guy when he was the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. Last season it was running back Marshall Faulk, a deep threat from anywhere on the field who frequently lined up in the slot or wide receiver position.

"In this day and age, you need to have a player like that," said Marchibroda.

Baltimore doesn't have one. The closest thing is halfback Earnest Byner, 35, whom owner Art Modell recently said was "90-something."

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