As howls for head grow, Marchibroda stands tall

November 08, 1998|By JOHN STEADMAN

Much of the football knowledge and human civility that Baltimore once demonstrated has vanished to the winds. Regrettable. Why else would such an unwarranted display of resentment be directed toward a highly professional coach who stands as the epitome of a gentleman? A model for us all.

An exemplary leader, teacher and citizen. The name is Ted Marchibroda.

Yes, times change and, in this case, not for the better. It must be admitted, and with some embarrassment, that Marchibroda has been battered beyond what's measured as fair criticism. In a word, savaged.

The great dignity of Marchibroda, in the face of the pack of wolves hollering for his dismissal, is something to admire. The test of an individual is how he or she reacts to pressure, be it in the business world, the hospital operating room, bringing in the crops from the field or having a presence in the athletic arena.

Marchibroda has been a credit to the Ravens team he leads, the owner who employs him, the city he represents and certainly to himself -- both personally and professionally.

When the late, great Art Rooney, founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was alive and watching Marchibroda turn around a Colts team in 1975 that was morbid in performance, from a dead-last 2-12 to 10-4 the next year and a divisional winner, he said: "I'm not surprised. If those players can't play for Ted, then they can't play for anybody."

The same is true today. He doesn't abuse the team or make it the subject of ridicule to get himself out of the burning grease. With bombs going off all around him, he holds his battle station, refusing to say the troops are inadequate -- meaning the line can't block or the receivers can't catch and hold the ball after being tackled.

Marchibroda hasn't tried to intimidate, chastise or curse a single sportswriter or broadcaster, although, with few exceptions, they have all but pushed him into the discard pile. The signs posted in the stadium calling for his firing mirror a lack of consideration for previous accomplishments in Baltimore and Indianapolis. Should there be a public lynching because a team is 2-6 after putting up a 4-0 exhibition showing?

Anyone with a facsimile of a brain should know that what happens in exhibitions provides a fraudulent look at football reality. Despite how the scoreboard read in the charitable offerings to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the 42-19 result was endowed by three fumbles and a blocked kick -- all in the first half of what the players turned into a form of football burlesque.

Even Paul Brown couldn't win with that kind of a performance, which had nothing to do with

coaching. To Marchibroda's credit, he hasn't slumped to the level of the snarling detractors. With sincere consideration, he offered the thought that he understands the insults directed at him as a condition brought on by the frustrations suffered by the fans.

He went a step further to say, without a sarcastic smirk but an engaging smile, that he's happy the crowd cares so much about the team that it expresses itself with what could be called negative enthusiasm.

The thought might be that he was being facetious, but, without a doubt, he believes strongly in what he says. Marchibroda has never been a coach dispensing con, as some others have been known to do. Players, assistant coaches, in fact everyone he deals with, receive nothing less than fair and honorable treatment. The mark of a true professional and a gem of a gentleman.

His record as a football coach needs no defense. Those criticizing him have every right, since they buy tickets. But the mistakes that led to the Ravens' embarrassing pratfall with the Jaguars were entirely of the players' creation. They had no input from the coaches when it came to the way they played -- looking more like something out of a comic strip than well-paid professionals.

Not once has Marchibroda put the blame on his team. He has been merciful in taking the hit for his players. The reason the players respect his abilities is they know he does all a coach can do in getting them ready. After that, they are on their own.

Bruce Laird, once a Colts defensive back under Marchibroda, said: "I don't know how you could expect any more from a coach. He does his part in getting them ready and does it well. Then they got to go out and play, to execute, to knock people down and get the job done, just like in any other line of work."

In every city or, on a college campus, where a coach is under fire, two generalizations are invariably made: 1) The coach lacks imagination; and 2) He can't motivate. Such talk becomes tiring to a point of being trite. Also inaccurate.

The next complaint with Marchibroda will have to do with his age (67). He'll be labeled as too old and a soft touch. This will be

followed by the opinion that the game has passed him by. Wrong again, and a cheap shot.

The Ravens, as a team, have tried too hard. From this point, with only Marchibroda standing to lose his job, they should endeavor to play free and easy, like on the back lot when they were kids.

The Oakland Raiders, this afternoon's opponent, have made a resurgence. The Ravens are catching the Raiders when they're at the top of their game as the second half of the season commences. The last eight outings aren't going to be any easier than what has already transpired.

Lying or double-talking to players has never been Marchibroda's way in a coaching business fraught with deceit and cheating. He deserves a better fate than where his team is apparently taking him, out the door, to the accompaniment of a chorus of critics who don't know if the football is stuffed or inflated.

Pub Date: 11/08/98

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