He laid foundation for today's winners

Football: Catching up with the first coach of the Ravens, Ted Marchibroda.

Purple People Meter

January 12, 2001|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

He's not on anyone's mind this week. Especially this week. He's just a nice, older guy who used to work around here.

In a way, he's the forgotten Raven.

Ted Marchibroda has been gone a whole two years, just feels like 10. In 1996, Marchibroda, who had spent nine years coaching the old Baltimore Colts, became the first head coach of the new Baltimore Ravens. Over three seasons, his record was 16-31-1. In late 1998, Marchibroda was no longer the coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

That's ancient history in professional sports, where ancient history is defined as "any time more than two years." Writing about Marchibroda in the same week the Ravens face the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship makes about as much sense as writing about Ray Miller and the Orioles' off-season trades. Where's the connection?

But, for some reason, Ted Marchibroda came to mind this week. What happened to him? Does he follow the Ravens? Does he think he played some small part in their recent success?

With the Ravens on top without him, does Marchibroda deserve a slight tip of the hat? A token of ancient appreciation for getting the ball rolling on the new team, breaking in Baltimore to football again, and reminding people that nice guys sometimes finish 16-31-1, but they finish still as nice guys?

Sure he does.

A coach and organization that drafted Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware and Duane Starks knew something about building a team. If Marchibroda was too old-school to motivate today's players, then the fans and sportswriters already hashed that out a million times over. His career here was over two years ago.

"Hopefully," Marchibroda says today, "I got them started on the right foot."

That's so Ted-like, so modest and understated. He was always this avuncular, less crotchety version of Uncle Charlie from "My Three Sons." In front of reporters, he was never going to say anything controversial or outlandish. Marchibroda's idea of trash talking is discussing whether it's plastic or paper recycling this week. We're talking about Marchibroda as if he's dead. He's alive and well and playing "terrible" golf near the home he built an hour from Williamsburg, Va. His grown children and grandchildren live across the street. "There are a couple of athletes in the family," he says. During the football season, he travels to Indianapolis where - surprise - he does radio for the Colts.

As usual, he's a man of a few, kind words. Then he politely lets you know your time is up and he is finished talking. He is not a nostalgic man, either. You want interesting, profound sports commentary, read Frank DeFord.

One gets the impression Marchibroda hadn't really thought about his Ravens coaching career again before it was brought up with him this week. Marchibroda is just a regular football guy, who is pushing 70. And, surprise again, he's just as nice as ever.

Have you followed the Ravens?

"I have. They certainly look good. I think the players are playing with passion, you can see they believe in themselves. I think Brian has them playing with great confidence."

Do you stay in touch with any of the players or the organization?

"I really don't keep in touch with the players. It's their ballclub and now I just stay away."

Any regrets about leaving?

"No. It was my time to cash in my chips."

How would you like to be remembered as a Raven?

"I really don't think about things like that."

Would you now?

"I'm thinking ... well, it's one of those things you hope you did the best you could. I hope the organization feels I did."

Do you still analyze the Ravens the way a coach does?

"I haven't. I just watch the game and enjoy it. I do think the winner of the Ravens-Raiders game will take the Super Bowl."

And then Ted Marchibroda, the first head coach of the Ravens, having said nothing controversial or remarkable, politely excuses himself from the interview. Perhaps a round of terrible golf awaits.

And perhaps he did get the Baltimore Ravens started on the right foot all those five years ago.

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