By Raymond Rolak
Detroit Sports Broadcaster Association Past President
- Starred at St. Bonaventure and the University of Detroit
- Humble Son of Immigrants
- Honored Member of the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame
Former St. Bonaventure and University of Detroit quarterback, Ted Marchibroda, passed away this weekend surrounded by family at his home in Weems, VA. The Franklin, PA, native son was 84.
Ted Marchibroda was the NFL head coach of the Colts in Baltimore from 1975-1979, then again in Indianapolis from 1992-1995, compiling a 71-67 regular season record. He led the Colts to the playoffs four times and won three AFC Division titles. In the ’75 season, Marchibroda was named NFL Coach of the Year.
In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Indianapolis Colts team owner Jim Irsay said, “We are extremely saddened and mourn the loss of Ted Marchibroda. He had a proud history not just with the Colts, but also as a player, coach and broadcaster for over half a century with the NFL. Ted was an innovator and turned the Colts into an instant playoff team when he took his first head coaching role in 1975. Ted was as humble as they come, and he represented the Colts and our community with class both off the field and on. He was beloved by many, and will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ann and their family.”
Marchibroda made his coaching debut with the Washington Redskins in 1961 as backfield coach and was there through 1965. He joined George Allen’s staff with the Los Angeles Rams in 1966 and moved with Allen to the Redskins in 1971. Marchibroda served as the offensive coordinator there through the 1974 season.
After his first stint as head coach for the Colts, he served as an assistant coach for the Chicago Bears (1981), Detroit Lions (1982-83), Philadelphia Eagles (1984-85) and Buffalo Bills (1987- 91). While at Buffalo, he served on Pro Football Hall of Fame Head Coach Marv Levy’s staff. There he made a name for development of a coaching template that featured no huddles and mobile quarterbacks.
After his second stint as Colts head coach, Marchibroda returned to Baltimore and was the first head coach of the Ravens. In three seasons (1996-98), he totaled a 16-31-1 record.
Marchibroda coached the AFC team and Bill Belichick of the Cleveland Browns coached the NFC team for the Senior Bowl all-star game Jan. 16, 1993, at Mobile, Ala. Belichick, now of the perennially successful New England Patriots, adored Marchibroda for his offensive game plans and he gave him his first NFL job. “It was in 1975,” Belichick said. “I learned so much from him,” Belichick added. “A lot of X’s and O’s, but it really wasn’t the X’s and O’s. It was a lot more about just being a football coach, being a professional coach, preparation, work ethic, dependability, what goes into having a good football team.”
Marchibroda played quarterback at St. Bonaventure (1950-51) and the University of Detroit (1952). He came to the Titans because St. Bonaventure dropped football. He led the nation in total offense while at Detroit. His most outstanding game as a senior in that ’52 season was against Tulsa. He unleashed a dynamic air attack, hitting on 27 of 54 passes for 390 yards. He later returned to the New York area and got his degree at St. Bonaventure. He often referred to his travels as a blessing, making many friends in Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Indiana and Maryland.
Marchibroda was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round (fifth overall pick) of the 1953 NFL Draft. His NFL career consisted of 30 games (11 starts) and completed 172-of-385 passes for 2,169 yards with 16 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He was with the Steelers (1953, 1955 and 1956) and Chicago Cardinals (1957). Marchibroda missed the 1954 season while serving in the Army.
On September 3, 1957, during the preseason, Marchibroda hooked up with another University of Detroit alumnus, rookie end Perry Richards, for a 34 yard touchdown against Philadelphia. Marchibroda subsequently broke his leg. New coach Buddy Parker traded his mobile QB to the Chicago Cardinals. Parker had drafted Len Dawson and acquired Earl Morrall for the ’57 season. They played a more traditional pocket style. Even though Marchibroda had a 1958 Topps Playing Card, he didn’t take part in the ‘58 season for Chicago because of a nagging arm injury.
He mentored many successful quarterbacks; including Jim Kelly and Jim Harbaugh. The veteran coach was fond of saying, “Coaches are educators.”
He last worked as a radio broadcaster and color commentator for the Colts Radio Network from 1999 until 2006. “He had a proud history not just with the Colts, but also as a player, coach and broadcaster for over half a century with the NFL,” Irsay added.
Marchibroda was inducted into the St. Bonaventure University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1970, the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1976, the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor in 2000 and the University of Detroit-Mercy Titans Hall of Fame in 1983. He is survived by his wife, Ann, and two daughters, Jodi and Lonni and two sons, Ted Jr. and Robert.
(special to CNBNewsnet)