Former Baltimore Colts coach Ted Marchibroda has been hired to create another Miracle on 33rd Street.
Marchibroda, 64, who was fired last week by Indianapolis despite guiding the Colts to the AFC championship game, signed a three-year contract Wednesday night to become coach of Baltimore's new NFL franchise.
Baltimore owner Art Modell would not reveal financial terms, but a high-ranking team source said Marchibroda will be paid nearly $700,000 per season, and that he received a signing bonus of about $100,000.
Marchibroda reportedly turned down a one-year offer for $600,000 from Indianapolis before signing with Baltimore, where he coached the Colts in their final glory days from 1975 through 1979.
Marchibroda said he felt a special emotion when his car turned onto 33rd Street en route to his news conference yesterday at Memorial Stadium.
"I couldn't think of any better scenario," said Marchibroda, whose career record is 73-71. "It was a great feeling when we made the turn onto 33rd Street and I saw the lights and the front of Memorial Stadium.
"My best memory was when we beat Miami, 10-7, in that fog game, where Toni Linhart kicked a 31-yard field goal to give us an overtime win.
"I'm glad to be back in Baltimore. It's a new tradition starting, but we certainly want to continue the tradition of winning football teams here."
Marchibroda has a history of turning around teams. He helped breathe life into the Colts in 1975, turning a 2-12 team into a 10-4 playoff club, and led Indianapolis from 1-15 to 9-7 in 1992.
"I'm ecstatic at the prospects of what Teddy Marchibroda can do for this franchise," said Modell. "One of his great attributes over the years is the ability to turn a franchise around in very short order, which tells me that players believe in him and want to play for him."
Marchibroda has to rebuild a team that was 11-5 in 1994, but fell to 5-11 last season. Many of the players were signed to long-term contracts after 1994 because they were supposed to be the nucleus that would lead the Cleveland Browns to the Super Bowl.
And that's what is appealing to Marchibroda.
"This is not like past situations," he said. "This team has won. What I have to find out is if they still want to win.
"The important thing is I think we have a good team here. I think it is a team that can win immediately, and that is exactly what I want to do."
Marchibroda said his first job would to be meet with Bill Belichick's old staff in Cleveland to determine his assistant coaches. He then will meet with the players.
Belichick had one of the league's most talented coaching staffs, and a number of teams have made offers to them.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sheppard and tight ends/offensive line coach Pat Hill are the only two assistants not under contract.
"Ted will have the final decision," said Modell. "Every coach has the right to choose his own staff."
Vinny Testaverde will work with Marchibroda, who has helped develop such quarterbacks as Roman Gabriel, Bert Jones, Jim Kelly and his latest protege, Jim Harbaugh.
Testaverde, 32, had career numbers last year, but critics said his mechanics were sometimes bad and he often took too long to find receivers on medium to deep routes. Marchibroda sees a big, strong quarterback in his prime.
"We got a veteran quarterback in Vinny," the coach said. "He's at the proper age where he should be playing his best football. He's willing to work hard, and when you combine that with talent, it's a pretty tough combination.
"Each quarterback matures differently. Harbaugh is a prime example of what we're talking about. Who says it can't happen to Vinny?"
Marchibroda said the offense won't be conservative, unlike the one he had during his first tenure in Baltimore, or the one Belichick ran in Cleveland. He plans on having a balanced but open attack, and has capable receivers in Michael Jackson, Keenan McCardell, Derrick Alexander and Andre Rison.
Marchibroda said the interior lines and secondary are strengths, too.
Modell spent nearly $24 million in signing bonuses over the $37.1 million salary cap for players a year ago, so Baltimore won't be aggressive in the free-agent market.
But Modell has said he will spend money for an impact player, and Baltimore may be interested in Colts free-agent linebacker Quentin Coryatt.
"I know that Quentin was very upset when Marchibroda left," said Coryatt's agent, Steve Zucker. "I think it may depend on who their defensive coordinator is."
Modell and Marchibroda said they want to build in the draft, where the team has the fourth and 28th picks in the first round.
Before Belichick was let go, the Browns rated offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (UCLA), defensive end Tony Brackens (Texas), running back Leeland McElroy (Texas A&M;), cornerback Ray Mickens (Texas A&M;) and linebacker Kevin Hardy (Illinois) as some of the best prospects at the recent Indianapolis scouting combine.
If Baltimore doesn't sign Coryatt, it will need help at that position, plus running back, defensive tackle and cornerback.
Baltimore players seem eager to play for Marchibroda, whose style is opposite that of the gruff Belichick.
"Everything I've heard about him is good," said McCardell. "I heard he is a player's coach, and I think the change will help us."
Said kicker Matt Stover: "He took his team to the playoffs this year, so his players believed in him. He's been a winner wherever he went. I think we have a really good nucleus, and I
think the move is going to be a positive one."