In an emotional farewell yesterday, Ted Marchibroda finally became accountable, something he had always preached during his three-year tenure as Ravens coach.
Barring a miraculous change of heart, Ravens owner Art Modell is expected to fire Marchibroda this morning, less than 24 hours after the Ravens defeated the Detroit Lions, 19-10, yesterday before 68,045 at the team's Camden Yards stadium.
Marchibroda walked amid cheers and well-wishers as he left the field for probably the last time. According to a league source, possible replacements include former 49ers coach George Seifert, Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham, Minnesota offensive coordinator Brian Billick, Jacksonville offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren. Philadelphia coach Ray Rhodes, Michigan State's Nick Saban and Carolina's Dom Capers also have been mentioned but are considered long shots.
Modell had expected the Ravens (6-10) to at least challenge for playoff contention, but they were out of the race at midseason.
"I think for the first time I'm reading the papers, I'm prepared not to be here," said Marchibroda, 16-31-3 in three seasons. "But I can tell you this, it's been an uphill battle for three years and sometimes the battle defeats you. I didn't finish the job, I really didn't."
When asked if the odds were against him because of the team's move from Cleveland, changes in the Ravens' front office and the team's salary cap problems, Marchibroda seemed close to tears. But he refused to go into specifics.
"As I leave here, again I think the thing I can say, they played hard," he said. "We had a tough battle. We had a tough climb for three years. But damn, we fought
"No regrets. I'm thankful for the opportunity. This is what I love to do. This is what I like to do. I enjoy doing it and it doesn't always turn out. I can leave here and I can walk the streets of Baltimore with my head held up high."
The Ravens may become victims of yesterday's success. With San Diego's loss, the Ravens will get the 10th overall selection in the NFL draft in April. They had the No. 10 pick last year and were at No. 4 the previous two years.
There was no quit in the Ravens yesterday. They held one of the game's top running backs, Barry Sanders, to 41 yards rushing on 19 carries -- eight for negative yards. The Ravens outgained Detroit 295 to 236 in total yards and had nearly a seven-minute advantage in time of possession.
Priest Holmes became the first Raven to rush for more than 1,000 yards, gaining 132 yards on 28 carries to finish with 1,008 for the season. The second-year player did it with a makeshift line that was without three starters, but guards Ben Cavil and Mike Flynn, tackles Spencer Folau and James Atkins and center Jeff Mitchell were more than adequate replacements.
"I'm not some kind of pride guy, but I wanted to go out with some dignity," said Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 141 yards. "There has been some of that feeling sorry for ourselves around here, but everybody has got to step up, take responsibility and work harder for next year. Because you really haven't seen a lot of people in this organization saddle up and say, 'Yeah, I can do better.' "
Aside from Sanders' one 31-yard run, the Lions (5-11) had virtually no offense. Detroit has one of the best receiver tandems in the league in Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton, but veteran quarterback Frank Reich's arm looked embarrassingly inept while he completed 18 of 29 passes for 195 yards.
Lions fullback Tommy Vardell was stopped on a crucial fourth-and-inches attempt at the Ravens' 16 by rookie defensive tackle Lional Dalton with 6: 07 left in the third quarter, and Detroit's only touchdown came on an 8-yard pass in the left flat to Cory Schlesinger with 13: 25 left in the game to cut the Ravens' lead to 16-10.
But the Ravens went on an 11-play, 51-yard scoring drive that ended with Matt Stover converting a 30-yard field goal with 5: 03 left to push the lead to 19-10. That was it for the Lions in a game the Ravens dominated from beginning to end.
The Ravens scored on a safety 6: 48 into the game when Reich passed from his own end zone, but tackle Ray Roberts was penalized for holding Peter Boulware.
The Ravens scored again on Detroit's next offensive series when Sanders, tackled by Dalton as he took the handoff, fumbled and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa recovered at the Lions' 2. Three plays later, Holmes ran off left guard for a touchdown with 5: 40 left in the first quarter.
The Ravens' other touchdown came on a great one-handed, 11-yard reception by Roosevelt Potts over the middle to complete a 13-play, 97-yard drive with 5: 44 left in the half.
"This was our last game, this was their last game," Boulware said. "The coaching staff really laid it on the line for us. It hasn't been reflected in our record, but they work hard and they really care about us and we wanted to do something for them."
Despite Marchibroda downplaying the game, his status was on a lot of players' minds. Marchibroda didn't mention it before the game, but he didn't have to.
"It's a sad situation, especially when the coach who drafted you and brought you in the league is let go," said Ravens receiver Jermaine Lewis. "He did all he could do, but in this league if you don't win, you don't stay."
Defensive end Michael McCrary said: "Sometimes when the ax falls, it falls hard. I liked Ted as a head coach. I liked him as a person. It's not all the coach's fault, it's a combination. You know what this team needs -- it's a new attitude. We already have the talent."
The players said Marchibroda was emotional in his final post-game talk.
"He came in and told us good luck, that we didn't forget to fight," said right guard Jeff Blackshear. "You could see he was getting real emotional about it because he was forgetting some things he wanted to say and his voice got a little shaky. You know, Ted can only do so much. Our first year, we were putting 36 points a game on the board, and now the offense is struggling. That helped cost him his job."
Marchibroda, 67, said he hasn't given much thought to his future plans. Several of his assistant coaches have been in contact with New York Jets defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, their former boss, who reportedly is a candidate for several head-coaching positions.
Marchibroda talked about some of his top moments during his second stay in Baltimore: the Ravens' first regular-season win against Oakland in 1996, and wins against Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and the Washington Redskins.
"I think it can improve," he said of the Ravens' fortunes for next season. "I hope it happens overnight, but nobody can foretell that. But I hope it happens overnight that they have success. I wish them all the best of luck."
=1 A breakdown of the Ravens' three-year record:
Category ..... 1996 ..... 1997 ..... 1998
Overall ...... 4-12 ..... 6-9-1 .... 6-10
Home ......... 4-4 ...... 3-4-1 .... 4-4
Away ......... 0-8 ...... 3-5 ...... 2-6
1st 8 games .. 3-5 ...... 4-4 ...... 2-6
2nd 8 games .. 1-7 ...... 2-5-1 .... 4-4
AFC Central .. 1-7 ...... 3-5 ...... 2-6
AFC .......... 2-10 ..... 4-8 ...... 5-7
NFC .......... 2-2 ...... 2-1-1 .... 1-3
Grass ........ 4-8 ...... 5-6-1 .... 4-8
Turf ......... 0-4 ...... 1-3 ...... 2-2
Decided by 7
or fewer ..... 3-6 ...... 4-6-1 .... 4-4
Decided by 3
or fewer ..... 0-4 ...... 3-5-1 .... 1-3
Pub Date: 12/28/98