Coach Marchibroda, walking the sidelines during a Ravens game last year, says he would love to coach as long as possible.
Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Ravens
Faith and football: For Baltimore Ravens coach
Ted Marchibroda, its a winning combination.
By Susan Hines-Brigger
RAVENS ARE MENTIONED THROUGHOUT HISTORY and mythology. In the Bible, Noah sent out a raven, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth (Genesis 8:7) after the flood. For Edgar Allan Poe, the raven rapping on his window served as a reminder of the loss of his love. Some believe that a single raven is the bearer of bad news. Ravens are sometimes, however, considered to be good fortune. Such was the case in 1995, when an entire team of Ravens descended upon Baltimore, signifying the return of professional football to the city.
Who better to lead the newly established Ravens than Ted Marchibroda, who in 1974 began his head coaching career in Baltimore? So, 21 years to the day after he became head coach of the Baltimore Colts (now the Indianapolis Colts), Marchibroda accepted the head coaching job of the Ravens (formerly the Cleveland Browns). This May, Marchibroda sat down with St. Anthony Messenger at the Ravens training complex in Owings Mills, Maryland, to talk about football, his Catholic faith and what the future holds for him.
The Ravens are a new team in one sense, but the team includes a number of veteran NFL players. According to Marchibroda, coaching a new team is no different than any of his other coaching experiences. Its the same wherever you go, he says.
The Ravens, currently playing their preseason games, will face the Jacksonville Jaguars in their first regular season game on August 31. The Ravens finished their inaugural season last year with a record of four wins and 12 losses. Marchibroda says that his goal as a coach, though, goes much deeper than just wins and losses. I think the number one thing that you look for as a coach is at the end of the year to ask yourself, Did I get everything out of the players that I possibly could? Thats your criterion, I think, to judging whether your seasons been a successful season or not, rather than wins and losses.
Prior to each of their games, the Ravens gather in the locker room, just before kickoff, for a team prayer. Marchibroda gathers the players, then Father Christopher Whatley, the teams chaplain, offers a prayer. We never pray for victory, Whatley says. Marchibroda stipulates that. We pray that we play fairly, that we never intend to hurt anyone, and that we give all praise and glory to God for the gifts and the athletic ability we have. The team then concludes with the Lords Prayer. The ritual is repeated after the gamewin or lose. Father Whatley says that, if anyone has been injured on either team, we entrust him to Gods care. The team also prays to keep working as a team and not to be judgmental or critical of others.
The year before Marchibroda became head coach of the Ravens, he led the Indianapolis Colts to within one game of Super Bowl XXX. The game ended with a dropped Hail Mary pass by the Colts in the end zone. They lost 20-16. Marchibroda says the loss was as big a disappointment as Ive had in sports.
But, of course, losing is part of the game. So, how does he help his team deal with defeat? I think the biggest thing that Ive found is just to be honest with the players, says Marchibroda. Footballs a tough game and its a hard game. It takes a lot of work. If they win, you tell them how they played and youre certainly happy for their success. If they lose, by the same token, you have to be truthful and honest as to why you felt they lost. He also points out, though, that the first thing you do really is to look at yourself and ask, What did I do wrong?
Importance of Faith
Marchibroda was born March 15, 1931, in the small town of
Franklin, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest child of Joseph
and Elizabeth Marchibroda, who had immigrated to the United
States from Poland in 1913.
says his Catholic faith was formed at a very early age by
his parents, especially through his mothers example.
To this day I can remember her saying her prayers at
night. She was so focused, so deep into it. At times now I
wish I could be that totally involved myself.
also remembers when she was in the hospital and didnt
have too much longer to live, I remember the priest told me
that when he gave her Communion he wouldnt let go of
her. He would hold her hand until she was through saying her
prayers following Communion. He recalls incidents such
as these as an indication of her deep involvement
with her faith.
Marchibroda says the key question to a successful season is, Did I get everything out of the players that I possibly could?
As for his own personal faith, Marchibroda says that prayer plays a very big part in his life. I try to pray as much as I possibly can. I think maybe I feel that some things that have been accomplished [in my life] I attribute to prayer. My wife tells me sometimes, Dont ever think its you.
Marchibroda is not directly involved with his players' personal
lives, he does admit to being concerned about them.
Photo by Don Larson, courtesy of Indianapolis Colts
A picture of Pope John Paul II sits on the credenza behind his office desk, next to a photo of his grandchildren. Marchibroda says he would like to meet the pope because I just admire everything he has done and the way that he does it.
His favorite prayer is the Hail Mary, he says, because I guess I felt that there were things during my life that I prayed to the Blessed Virgin for and they came true.
Football Wins Out
During grade school at Third Ward School, Marchibroda says he encountered a lifelong influence. One of the people who helped me early in life was the junior high school [basketball] coach in my hometown, recalls Marchibroda. He brought me in when I was in sixth grade to work with the junior high team. I felt like I didnt want to let the guy down, and I think that motivates you a little bit.
When he entered Franklin High School, Marchibroda played football, basketball and baseball. He was an all-state selection for basketball, but says that somewhere along the way he just realized that I enjoyed football much more. I enjoyed the others [sports] also, but there was a dividing line somewhere. I dont know how it took place, but I just said, Im going into football.
Marchibroda continued playing football as quarterback in college. He attended St. Bonaventure University, a Franciscan university in upstate New York, from 1950 to 1951. He returned to St. Bonaventure to graduate in 1953 after attending the Jesuit-run University of Detroit for a year. During his year at the University of Detroit, Marchibroda led the nation in total offense. While at St. Bonaventure, Marchibroda led the team in 1951 to its best season in the history of the universitys football team.
Marchibroda told Catholic News Service during a 1996 interview that attending St. Bonaventure set me on the right road as far as life was concerned. It put me on the right path. I had the values in place when I got there, but they reinforced and perpetuated them. I can tell you, if you went sour in that environment, youd go sour anywhere. Father Whatley says he has heard Marchibroda, when paid a compliment, thank the Franciscans for straightening him out. In May 1996, Marchibroda received an honorary degree from St. Bonaventure during the universitys commencement ceremonies.
(front row, right) has nothing but praise for his alma mater
St. Bonaventure University, from which he received an honorary
doctorate in 1996.
Photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure University
In 1953 Marchibroda was chosen as a first-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played that season, then served a year in the Army. In 1955 he returned to play another two seasons for the Steelers. During the 1956 season, Marchibroda achieved his top season, completing 124 of 275 passes for 1,585 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In 1954, Marchibroda married Ann Schossler, whom he met at a grocery store where he worked on Saturdays during college. He considers his decision to get married following college a major turning point in his life. I just felt like it was a good time to get married, having gone to Catholic school. Your mind is close to the Church and the chapel is right there and you take advantage of it. Your mind is clean and good in getting to the outside world, and I felt getting married that very next year was the right time.
Marchibroda says his 42-year marriage has been a blessing. I think Im very fortunate to have a very fine woman as my wife. Shes been good to me. In the football business you need a good wife because were away so much that she really becomes the mother and the father to the children.
After 42 years, what advice would he give to other couples? Its a commitment. Its a total commitment above everything else, and you better be prepared to make that commitment, he says.
Ted and Ann live in Owings Mills and attend St. Joseph Parish in Cockeysville. While they were waiting for their home to be built, however, the Marchibrodas attended Sacred Heart Parish in Glyndon. The Ravens training complex falls within the parishs boundaries. Father Christopher Whatley, associate pastor of the parish, was recruited by Marchibroda to be the Ravens chaplain.
Its pretty much a coachs prerogative to have a chaplain or not, explains Father Whatley. If the coach decides to have a chaplain, then the denomination would be the coachs selection.
Father Whatley travels to every game with the team, both home and away. He says Mass for players, coaches, personnel and media, and presides over prayers in the locker room. He also makes himself available to all players, regardless of religious background, to pray with them or just talk.
Football and Family
Ted and Ann have four children: Jodi, Teddy, Jr., Lonni and Robert. Jodi, the oldest, is a stay-at-home mom with three children. Teddy is a football agent, Lonni is an attorney and mother of one child, and Robert is in business and also has one child. Marchibroda says he enjoys spending his time off with his family and grandchildren, whatever little time that is. Footballs become almost a year-round job, he says. I really have no hobbies whatsoever. I basically get the month of June off, and Ill spend that with my family and with my grandkids. In my life it really has been football and family.
is very important to Ted and Ann, seen here with their grandchildren
(clockwise, from right) Kristina, Bret, Ryan, Elizabeth and
Photo courtesy of the Marchibroda family
Looking back now that his kids are grown and parents themselves, Marchibroda says he would advise parents to lead by example with your children and spend time with your children. I think the greatest asset that Ive found, which my parents gave me, is total love. I think thats what you have to give your children.
Christopher Whatley, the Ravens chaplain, seen here
with the Marchibroda family after granddaughter Elizabeths
Baptism, says Ted Marchibroda is a very faithful and
Photo courtesy of the Marchibroda family
From Team Player to Team Leader
Marchibrodas coaching years began when his playing career ended following the 1956 season with the Chicago Cardinals (who later moved to St. Louis and then to Phoenix). Bill McPeak was a former teammate with the Pittsburgh Steelers and he became the head coach of the Washington Redskins in 1961, and he asked that I join him, Marchibroda recalls.
Marchibroda went on to coach for the Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Colts, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts.
His first year as head coach of the Baltimore Colts (1975-1979), Marchibroda led the team from a 2 and 12 record in 1974 to a 10 and 4 record and a divisional championship. It was for him the greatest achievement of his career. Because of that dramatic turnaround, he was named Coach of the Year (1975) by the National Football League (NFL) and became part of the legacy of Baltimore Colts football.
But to understand that legacy, one must know the history. Since 1947, when the Colts were established as part of the All-American Football Conference, Baltimore and the Colts had a special relationship. By the late 1950s the Colts were a championship team under the leadership of legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas. The winning tradition continued under Marchibrodas coaching.
Then, on the night of March 28, 1984, the Baltimore Colts packed up and moved to Indianapolis, leaving Baltimore fans stranded. As one Baltimore Colts fan said in a 1996 Sports Illustrated interview, Do I remember the day they left? Do I remember Pearl Harbor? Do I remember my wedding day? For 12 years Colts fans dreamed of football returning to Baltimore.
In the meantime, Marchibroda continued coaching, eventually ending up with his old team, the Colts, now in Indianapolis. After three years of coaching the Colts, Marchibroda was replaced by Lindy Infante following the 1995 season.
Marchibroda came back to Baltimore in 1995 when Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell moved his team to Baltimore. He chose Marchibroda, the winningest coach in Colts history, to lead the new Baltimore team, now called the Ravens.
In 1998, the Ravens will move into a new stadium next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore. They are currently playing in historic Memorial Stadium.
Looking Toward the Future
says one of the positive trends he sees in sports today is
that people are now looking at more than just the talent of
a player. At one time in sports the dominating factor
was the talent of the individual, he points out. But
I think were seeing now in sports where the character
of the individual is catching up to the talent. Talent will
still be first, but I think were finding out in all
sports that the individuals who have the character, who have
the heart, the drive to succeed are becoming more important
than ever before.
while the personalities of players are being highlighted,
Marchibroda says he would just as soon people not know
about him, so he can live a quiet, simple life. Im
more comfortable living that type of life than I am being
out in the forefront.
Whatley describes Ted Marchibroda as being like your
nice, lovable next-door neighbor: grandfather type, good community
man, very unassuming. But Ill tell you one thing: When
that man stands in the center of that [locker] room with those
gigantic players, they know whos coach. And they know
whos boss....The guys love to play for him.
says he is not involved a great deal in the personal lives
of his players. Let me say this, though. You are concerned
with their lives and you hope that by what you are doing you
can help them in their lives.
is a big aspect of coaching. The motivational factor
is a full-time job every day of the week, Marchibroda
says. But he points out that theres not any one
particular way you can motivate your football team. You do
everything that you can every day to motivate your club. And
you attempt to motivate every individual also.
if anyone knows how to motivate his players and turn a team
around, its Marchibroda. Twice in his career hes
turned Colts teams around, improving their records by a margin
of eight wins. If he can achieve the same thing with the Ravens,
they truly will be flying high.
Hines-Brigger is an assistant editor of this magazine and a
graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph.