Former NFL quarterback and head coach Ted Marchibroda passed away yesterday at the of 84, according to a number of news outlets, including Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. Marchibroda, who was drafted by the Steelers with the fifth overall pick of the 1953 draft, played only four seasons in the league–a playing career that was interrupted when he left Pittsburgh to serve in the Army–but he left an indelible impression on today’s game as a coordinator and coach.
Marchibroda was widely considered one of the most innovative offensive minds in NFL history. He worked on the Washington and Rams coaching staffs from 1961-1970 before returning to Washington to work as an offensive coordinator under George Allen in 1971. In 1975, he was announced as the head coach of the Baltimore Colts.
In an era of ball-control, ground-and-pound offenses, Marchibroda deployed up-tempo, no-huddle systems that would later become a league staple. The year before Marchibroda joined the Colts, Baltimore had stumbled to a 2-12 record. In Marchibroda’s first year at the helm, the team improved to 10-4 despite retaining largely the same personnel, and in 1976, the Colts led the league in yards and points scored, and quarterback Bert Jones was named league MVP.
Although the Colts fired Marchibroda in 1979, he would have a successful run as an offensive coordinator with the Bears, Lions, Eagles, and Bills over the next decade-plus. As Smith observes, Marchibroda was especially effective in Buffalo, where he masterminded the K-Gun offense that propelled the Bills to four straight Super Bowls.
In 1992, Marchibroda was again hired as the Colts head coach, eight years after the team had moved to Indianapolis. Once again, Marchibroda oversaw a major turnaround, as the Colts, who struggled to a 1-15 mark in 1991, improved to 9-7 in Marchibroda’s first season back.
In 1996, Marchibroda was hired as the first head coach of the expansion Ravens, a sentimental choice for the city of Baltimore. The fledgling Ravens predictably struggled in their first few seasons in the league–struggles that led to Marchibroda’s dismissal at the end of the 1998 season–but his legacy had been well-established by that time. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is just one of the many coaches who have credited a large part of their offensive success to Marchibroda.
We at PFR offer our thoughts and condolences to Marchibroda’s friends and family.