Ted Marchibroda, who died Saturday at the age of 84, will be remembered as an NFL coach although his understated, fatherly figure nature made him one of the most admired men ever associated with the Colts franchise.
First in Baltimore and then Indianapolis, Marchibroda brought pride to the horseshoe as NFL Coach of the Year in 1975, winning three AFC Eastern Division titles and leading the “Let ‘er Rip” underdogs to the AFC Championship Game in 1995.
Even after becoming the Baltimore Ravens’ first head coach in 1996, Marchibroda eventually made his way back to the Colts, as a radio commentator from 1999 through 2006 and being inducted into the Colts’ Ring of Honor in 2000.
“We are extremely saddened and mourn the loss of Ted Marchibroda,” Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay said in a statement. “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.”
It’s not that he was just a nice guy. Marchibroda made his NFL mark in many ways although his playing career is remembered with a dubious distinction. He was the quarterback the Pittsburgh Steelers kept instead of legendary Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas in 1955.
Marchibroda was the mentor who gave six-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Belichick his NFL start on the Baltimore Colts’ staff in 1975. He was also credited with the evolution of Buffalo’s K-Gun hurry-up offense from 1989 to 1991.
Marchibroda coached the Colts for nine seasons when the team was in Baltimore (1975-79) and Indianapolis (1992-95). He compiled a 71-67 (.514) regular season record. Marchibroda led the Colts to the playoffs four times and won three AFC Eastern Division titles. The Colts made the playoffs in each of his first three seasons with the team after winning the AFC Eastern Division three consecutive years from 1975-77.
After leading the Colts to a 10-4 record in his first season with the Colts in 1975, Marchibroda was named NFL Coach of the Year. In 1995, Marchibroda guided the Colts to a 9-7 regular season record, including an appearance in the AFC Championship Game. In 2000, he became the first Colts head coach to be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.
After his coaching career, Marchibroda served as a radio color commentator for the Colts from 1999-2006.
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). In Buffalo, he served on Pro Football Hall of Fame Head Coach Marv Levy’s staff. 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 played quarterback at St. Bonaventure (1950-51) and the University of Detroit (1952). He led the nation in total offense at Detroit. Marchibroda was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round (fifth overall) of the 1953 NFL Draft. As a quarterback, he played in 30 career games (11 starts) and completed 172-of-385 passes for 2,169 yards with 16 touchdowns and 29 interceptions with the Steelers (1953, 1955, 1956) and Chicago Cardinals (1957). Marchibroda missed the 1954 season while serving in the Army and returned to Pittsburgh the following year.
A native of Franklin, Pa., Marchibroda and his wife, Ann, had two daughters, Jodi and Lonni and two sons, Ted Jr. and Robert.
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