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Offensive innovator Ted Marchibroda dies at 84

14 Jan 1996: Indianapolis Colts head coach Ted Marchibroda looks on during a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won the game, 20-16. Getty Images

Ted Marchibroda, a quarterback and coach who was one of the league’s most innovative thinkers, has died at the age of 84.

All of today’s up-tempo, pass-first offenses owe something to Marchibroda, who was decades ahead of his time in his approach to offensive football. At a time when most coaches thought ball control and time of possession were of paramount importance, Marchibroda ran hurry-up, no-huddle offenses that kept opposing defenses on their heels.

A good college quarterback at St. Bonaventure and the University of Detroit, Marchibroda set a college football record with 390 passing yards in one game, and he was the fifth overall pick in the 1953 NFL draft. But after his rookie year with the Steelers, Marchibroda left to serve in the Army, and although he would return to the NFL and play two seasons with the Steelers and one with the Chicago Cardinals, he didn’t have much of a playing career.

But Marchibroda had a phenomenal coaching career. In 1961 he got his first NFL caoching job, as an assistant in Washington, and he remained there five years. He then spent five more seasons on the staff of the Los Angeles Rams before returning to Washington to serve as George Allen’s offensive coordinator. After four years there, Marchibroda became head coach of the Baltimore Colts.

Taking over a team that had gone 2-12 the year before, Marchibroda installed an innovative offense and took the NFL by storm, going 10-4 and taking the Colts to the playoffs. How big an impact did Marchibroda’s offense make? Despite making few major personnel changes, the Colts went from scoring 190 points in 1974 to scoring 395 points in 1975. In 1976 the Colts’ offense got even better, leading the league in both yards and points as quarterback Bert Jones was named the league MVP.

Marchibroda was fired as head coach after the 1979 season but had success as an offensive coordinator in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and especially Buffalo, where he was the mastermind behind the K-Gun offense that helped the Bills win four straight AFC Championship Games.

After his success in Buffalo, the Colts hired Marchibroda back as head coach, and he once again made an immediate impact, taking over a team that went 1-15 and going 9-7 in his first year. Marchibroda finished his coaching career as head coach of the Ravens from 1996 to 1998.

Among the many coaches who were influenced by Marchibroda was Bill Belichick, who got his first coaching job when Marchibroda hired him with the Colts in 1975. In 2012, as the Patriots began to use the no-huddle offense more often, Belichick credited Marchibroda as the coach who taught him how to speed up an offense. Marchibroda is now gone, but his influence on the NFL remains.

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20 Responses to “Offensive innovator Ted Marchibroda dies at 84”
  1. barneyrumble says: Jan 16, 2016 2:36 PM

    R.I.P. Another spirit to add to the ghosts walking the Hall of Fame.

  2. araidersfan says: Jan 16, 2016 2:39 PM

    Marchibroda did a very good job at turning around the Colts during both his stints but especially in the mid-70s. As a Raiders fan I especially remember that he was the opposing HC for the great Raider-Colts ‘Ghost-to-the-post’ playoff game during the 1977 playoffs. R.I.P.

  3. dickshotdogs says: Jan 16, 2016 2:44 PM

    Play this one for him, Bill.

  4. chesswhileyouplaycheckers says: Jan 16, 2016 2:49 PM

    RIP Ted Marchibroda.

  5. dickjagger says: Jan 16, 2016 2:57 PM

    RIP, Coach Marchibroda. You were a great one.

  6. Deb says: Jan 16, 2016 2:57 PM

    But for injury, Bert Jones would be remembered as one of the all-time great quarterbacks thanks in part to Marchibroda’s coaching. Brilliant offensive mind. RIP

  7. loumann says: Jan 16, 2016 3:00 PM

    Another great NFLer but even a better human being!

  8. catquick says: Jan 16, 2016 3:01 PM

    Thanks, Ted. You showed good guys can win.

  9. duanethomas33 says: Jan 16, 2016 3:19 PM

    Sid Gillman, Tom Landry and Ted Marchibroda, all left their footprints on the offensive side of football, that still echoes today. R.I.P. Ted

    btw…The NFL Network blew it last night, with the rebroadcast of Super Bowl 1. Horrible.

  10. bosco264 says: Jan 16, 2016 3:22 PM

    Great man and Coach

  11. tomtravis76 says: Jan 16, 2016 3:23 PM

    First HC of the Ravens. He was highly respected in Baltimore from his time as HC of the Colts and helped bring in a fun style of football with Vinny to Jackson on 33rd.

  12. bornahawker says: Jan 16, 2016 3:32 PM

    Cheers to a great life coach! RIP
    Go Hawks!

  13. raiderlyfe510 says: Jan 16, 2016 3:44 PM

    Three words turned Jim Harbaugh’s career around as a QB. When Ted Marchibroda walked up to him during pre game warmups and told him to “Let ‘er rip”..after that Harbaugh and the Colts started to ball out and can within one play of the super bowl.

    RIP Coach Marchibroda he and Lindy Infante are the most underrated football geniuses.

  14. leatherface2012 says: Jan 16, 2016 4:12 PM

    and packer fans dont care because he wasnt affiliated with green bay. sad fan base

  15. Big Ant TV says: Jan 16, 2016 4:13 PM

    coach BB will be blowing out the Chiefs now no huddle with brady till
    andy and his defense cant take no more lol

  16. unknown says: Jan 16, 2016 4:39 PM

    RIP Ted Marchibroda. My favorite quote from him was:
    “Ask a backup quarterback to win three games, and he’ll win three games. Ask a backup quarterback to win six games, and he’ll win three games.”
    RIP Ted from exurban Cleveland.

  17. billswillnevermove says: Jan 17, 2016 12:21 AM

    Great coach, even a better human being. Thanks for the memories Ted with the Bills K-Gun!

  18. 315judman says: Jan 17, 2016 8:22 PM

    Fifth pick in the NFL draft from St. Bonaventure! That is really cool.

  19. kgunoffense12 says: Jan 19, 2016 4:09 PM

    This man will be missed! Go Bills!!!!

  20. leftypointspread says: Jan 20, 2016 7:11 PM

    RIP Coach.

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