If there were a class on the art of scouting quarterbacks, Ted Marchibroda could teach it. In fact, his students might call him Professor Projector.
Taking a page from Sid Gillman, the coaching pioneer who always had a projector within reach and spent most of his honeymoon watching game films, Marchibroda used a 35-millimeter projector to determine how quickly the game's best passers released the ball. That method, he said, would give us even more insight today as to why Peyton Manning is so good.
Back when he was an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams in the 1960s, Marchibroda studied film of some of the game's best quarterbacks: Johnny Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen, John Brodie, Joe Namath and Roman Gabriel among them. He would slow the film and count the number of frames between the time the player took his left hand off the ball until the pass was released. For all of them, the throwing motion took between 12 to 14 frames when captured by a camera shooting at 32 frames per second.
When Dan Marino came along and everyone lauded his quick release, Marchibroda put him to the projector test. Sure enough, Marino was releasing the ball at around eight to nine frames.
"It doesn't seem like four frames makes a difference," said Marchibroda, who coached the Baltimore Colts from 1975 to 1979 and the Ravens from 1996 to 1998. "But you're talking about 33 percent. And Peyton is the same way, he's got the same quick release as Marino."
Marchibroda has seen enough of Manning to know, even though he hasn't gauged him on his old projector. The longtime coach has been the color analyst on Indianapolis Colts radio the past four seasons, and he'll be at the RCA Dome tomorrow night when Manning could break Marino's single-season record for passing touchdowns.
With 46, Manning needs three to claim the record when he faces the Ravens' defense. Regardless of whether Manning breaks the record, Marchibroda said he deserves to be considered one of the great quarterbacks in NFL history.
"He pretty much has it all," he said. "Jimmy Brown had it all as a halfback, and Peyton is that level as a quarterback."
Lest anyone doubt Marchibroda's credentials as a judge of quarterbacks, consider this: He coached Jurgensen with Washington, Bert Jones with Baltimore, and Jim Kelly with Buffalo, among others. He also beat out Unitas in 1955 for one of three quarterback jobs with Pittsburgh.
"I think Peyton is probably as good as any quarterback who's ever played the game," Marchibroda said. "Just forgetting about his ability for a second, it's his preparation. He probably prepares more than what the quarterbacks did in previous years. They didn't look at film as much as he does.
"He's got a great understanding of the game. He's got a great understanding of defenses and his offense. From an ability standpoint, he's as accurate as any passer that I've ever seen."
There was a time, around the first season he covered Manning as a radio announcer, that Marchibroda thought he and receiver Marvin Harrison were merely enjoying a lucky hot streak.
"I thought they were just fortunate," he said. "But they're that good."
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.