Ravens owner Art Modell ended two weeks of speculation yesterday by saying coach Ted Marchibroda will fulfill the third and final year of his contract next season.
Modell generated speculation after the Ravens were beaten, 37-0, by the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago in a nationally televised Sunday night game. He called the performance "an embarrassment" to himself, his family, the organization and the community and declined to comment on the status of Marchibroda or anyone else on the staff.
His statements touched off a number of unconfirmed rumors from national television networks ESPN and Fox that Marchibroda would be replaced, with former San Francisco 49ers coach George Seifert as one of the possible successors.
Modell finally put the situation to rest.
"He's my coach and he will serve out his three-year contract," Modell said. "This was escalating into a public debate and I thought it was best for the ballclub, our organization and our fans to know where I'm coming from. I'm not a dangler. He's going to be here next year.
"Every person in this organization should be focusing on beating the Arizona Cardinals," Modell said. "That's the important task at hand. But I do want to clarify my position about this team. We came to Baltimore with a three-year plan to get this franchise back to the playoffs, and ultimately, a championship level. Ted Marchibroda was made part of the fulfillment of that three-year plan and remains so."
Marchibroda has an 8-18-1 record since the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, and last season the team had the worst defense in the league. Recently, he has been criticized for not being a motivator and possibly losing control of the team.
But the defense has turned its fortunes around recently, while the offense has fallen on hard times.
The Ravens have had two solid drafts, which have included such potential stars as offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, middle linebacker Ray Lewis, slot receiver Jermaine Lewis, and rookie outside linebackers Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper.
The Ravens have the fifth-youngest team in the NFL and have been handicapped by salary-cap limitations the past two seasons.
"I'm very pleased with Mr. Modell's decision," Marchibroda said. "We're moving forward here and we want to finish strong this year. We expect better things for next year."
Marchibroda said his status did not affect the team in recent games.
"I don't know if the players were too concerned to begin with," Marchibroda said. "We asked them to dig a little deeper and they came up with a good effort against Philadelphia. There were no signs of problems on their minds."
"I didn't hear a lot of players talking about his situation," he said. "For me, and possibly others, I was too busy trying to focus on this year and what I had to do. I like Coach Marchibroda. I'm glad he's coming back. He's a player's coach, a coach I like playing for."
"He's our guy and he's my guy," center Wally Williams said. "I don't see a problem with the way he prepares us for a game. He lets you go out and play your game.
"Sometimes, you can be overcoached; he doesn't do that. He puts the game on your shoulders and I respect him for that. That's the way it should be."
Barring a late-season collapse by the defense, coordinator Marvin Lewis also is expected to return. Before the last several games, Lewis had been under constant criticism.
"He should return, too," Boulware said. "We've been playing some pretty good defense. We started out slow, but we've been coming around. We're still getting better."
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Arizona Cardinals
Site: Memorial Stadium
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 45 (subject to blackout rule)/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Line: Ravens by 4
Series: First meeting
Tickets: 6,500 remain
Pub Date: 11/19/97