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Modell effusive over '98 Ravens Owner: 'We have heck of team'; Marchibroda again given support


Ravens owner Art Modell said yesterday he has enormous confidence in his 1998 team and there are no particular standards Ted Marchibroda must meet if he is to remain the team's head coach.

Marchibroda is in the final year of a three-year contract. He was 10-21-1 in his first two seasons.

"I want to make one thing perfectly clear and that's Ted Marchibroda does not have to make it to the playoffs or win so many games to keep his job," Modell said. "That's the furthest thing from my mind.

"The first year, he didn't have the material to win. I just want to see considerable progress. We were 6-9-1 last year, so 9-7 is considerable progress. It might not get us into the playoffs, but it's considerable progress. So is 10-6, 11-5.

"He and I understand each other," Modell said of Marchibroda. "I expect him to be here a long time, as long as he wants. I don't like coaching changes. I like stability. I'm very confident in Ted and his coaching staff, who have worked very hard.

"If there is progress, then he'll be entitled to the opportunity to stay on, which he has right now. I don't have anybody else in mind. There are no contingency plans. None."

Modell said he was pleased with his team's play in the preseason, as the Ravens went 4-0, their first unbeaten preseason since moving here two years ago. But unlike the promise he made then, when he said the Ravens were going to have an elite team, the owner said the potential is there to make the playoffs.

Modell has attended most of the Ravens' practices since training camp opened in mid-July. Yesterday, he was clearly a man trying contain his optimism.

"I've made predictions before, and I want to show restraint on my visions and aspirations, but I would be less than honest if I didn't say I think we have a heck of a football team," Modell said.

"We have clearly our best team since we came to Baltimore and clearly the best team we had in recent years in Cleveland," he said. "The question that surrounds expectations is how good has our competition gotten. We don't know yet."

Modell said he was impressed with his team's first-unit defense, which allowed no touchdowns in the preseason and only two field goals. He said he expects the running game and the offensive line to perform better Sunday.

"We're playing good, aggressive defense," Modell said. "The running game will come along. Both quarterback Jim Harbaugh and fullback Roosevelt Potts are happy to be reunited with Ted Marchibroda. [Running back Errict] Rhett has a lot to offer; so does Jay Graham, even though he hasn't got on track yet. Also, keep an eye on Priest Holmes."

When asked whom he prefers as the starting running back, Modell became an Artful dodger.

"That's a coaching decision. In 37 years, I haven't been involved with coaching decisions All I ask is why certain moves were made," he said.

He then smiled. "You know who I really like? Jim Brown. But you don't see him out there."

Modell said the Ravens have a tough schedule and rated the Central as the AFC's toughest division. He likes the Ravens' playing Pittsburgh in the opener.

"We're in a different venue -- a magnificent, glorious stadium -- coming off a good preseason," Modell said. "We're excited about the festivities surrounding this game, and it would be that way if we were playing Tennessee, but it's more significant to me personally because we're playing the Steelers.

"I actually wrote [Steelers president] Dan Rooney a letter saying I can't think of a more appropriate opening in the stadium than having the Pittsburgh Steelers come in. It may not be significant for people here who don't have a sense of history about the Steelers, but they will acquire that very soon. We'll find out about our football team Sunday."

The game could go a long way in deciding Marchibroda's fate. It's only Game 1, but a win could be a real morale booster for a team looking for its first playoff berth. If that happens, Marchibroda would definitely return.

Modell said he will make that decision at the appropriate time.

"I don't dangle people," he said. "Any decision now would be unfair to my organization, my football team. What we have right now we might make a lot of music with. It could be an overture or a symphony. That remains to be seen. Ted will know and I will know if everything is right. I won't have to strip the uniform off him to find out. He is a very honest man."

Ravens schedule

Date Opp. ........... Time TV

9/6 Pittsburgh ...... 1: 01 13

9/13 at N.Y. Jets ... 1: 01 13

9/20 at J'ville ..... 4: 15 13

9/27 Cincinnati ..... 8: 20 ESPN

10/4 Bye

10/11 Tennessee ..... 1: 01 13

10/18 at Pitt. ...... 1: 01 13

10/25 at Green Bay .. 1: 01 13

11/1 Jacksonville ... 1: 01 13

11/8 Oakland ........ 1: 01 13

11/15 at San Diego .. 4: 05 13

11/22 at Cincinnati.. 4: 15 13

11/29 Indianapolis .. 1: 01 13

12/6 at Tennessee ... 4: 15 13

12/13 Minnesota ..... 4: 15 45

12/20 at Chicago .... 1: 01 13

12/27 Detroit ....... 1: 01 45

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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