Modell again stirs trouble for self, team

November 18, 1997|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Whether he's signing a Bam Morris or deserting an entire city,

Ravens owner Art Modell frequently creates his own problems.

And now, by inviting speculation on the future of head coach Ted Marchibroda, he's at it again.

The NFL talking heads wasted no time Sunday responding to Modell's refusal to comment on the status of his coaches after the Ravens' 37-0 loss to Pittsburgh.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen said that the Ravens were interested in hiring former San Francisco 49ers coach George Seifert.

Fox's James Brown went even further, reporting that Seifert was at the "top of their list."

"I don't know where they got that from," Modell said yesterday. "I'm looking at nobody but my own organization. The time will come for assessment and reassessment, and it will take place in due course.

"I haven't spoken to George Seifert in years. I have no information about him. I'm not looking at anyone. I want to make a careful analysis of what we have, what we need."

Careful analysis?

Bam must go. Ted must stay.

Really, this isn't so complicated.

Of course, only in the wonderful world of sports could an owner shriek over an embarrassing defeat, then decline to comment when a player is charged with second-degree assault.

So now, Modell is getting what he deserves on both fronts.

Seifert is the hottest coach available. Modell tried to hire him in 1989. Such is the stuff that rumors are made of.

Indeed, Modell probably is still cursing his luck over his failure to land Seifert, who went on to win two Super Bowls.

Seifert was traveling to Cleveland for an interview when the 49ers paged him at the Dallas airport as he waited to change planes.

The 49ers summoned their assistant back to San Francisco and offered him the chance to replace Bill Walsh.

Modell was left to hire Bud Carson, and the rest is history.

Nearly a decade later, it's difficult to imagine a West Coast guy like Seifert moving to Baltimore.

It's even more difficult to imagine Don Shula coming out of retirement to coach Vinny Testaverde.

Still, Modell probably would love to make a splashy move with the Ravens' new downtown stadium opening next season.

He once fired Paul Brown, didn't he?

He's certainly capable of putting Marchibroda "under review," in the grand Baltimore tradition established by Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

If Modell wanted to do the right thing, he would announce that Marchibroda would return next season to complete the final year of his contract.

But then, who would believe him?

Modell promised to retain Bill Belichick after the Browns left Cleveland for Baltimore, and look what happened.

"I will say right now, I'm certain that Bill Belichick will coach this team next year," Modell said on the day he announced the move two years ago.

"I'm a great believer in continuity. I think he's done a good job."

Oops.

Modell fired Belichick three months later.

Surely, he recognizes that a vote of confidence for Marchibroda would carry zero credibility now.

"I am getting into nothing regarding our personnel and our people until the appropriate time," Modell repeated yesterday.

So, the talking heads put two and two together Sunday, and their speculation will continue as long as Marchibroda remains in limbo.

Feeling any pressure, Ted?

"I really don't at this time," he said yesterday. "I know this -- you've got to win in the NFL. I knew that in every job I've taken. You learn that pretty quick."

And if you don't win?

"There's one alternative," Marchibroda said, chuckling. "You have to win, that's all. There's no question about that. I understand that. I realize that."

Well, the Ravens are 8-18-1 under Marchibroda, but they'll almost certainly improve on last season's 4-12 mark despite carrying 22 first- and second-year players.

They should improve even further with their salary-cap woes easing next season, and Marchibroda deserves the chance to coach on an even playing field.

Frankly, the only way for Modell to justify firing Marchibroda would be if the players quit or the fans lost hope, and neither is likely to happen.

The players aren't going to undermine Marchibroda, at least not deliberately.

And any fan impatience probably would result more from frustration with Testaverde than Marchibroda.

The coach isn't perfect, but he started almost from scratch. Three years is a reasonable time frame for a turnaround. Two years is not enough.

Not for Marvin Lewis, whose defense finally is coming to life.

And not for Marchibroda, whose previous team, the Indianapolis Colts, has lost 18 of 24 games since starting 4-0 after his departure.

Heck, the coach might be the least of the Ravens' problems.

It's difficult to establish offensive continuity when your feature back is a walking police blotter, when your quarterback is an accident waiting to happen, when your receivers talk better than they play.

Injuries are disrupting the offense the way they disrupted the defense earlier this season. That's not an excuse for the Ravens' ineptitude -- especially not Testaverde's -- but it's an explanation.

Alas, we digress.

Bam must go. Ted must stay.

There's your careful analysis, Art.

Pub Date: 11/18/97

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