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Peter King
February 19, 1996
Without Grace or Glory
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February 19, 1996

The Nfl

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No way, said Marchibroda. Last Friday, Tobin called Marchibroda into his office, bade him farewell and told him he hoped there would be no hard feelings. "I was in there about 15 seconds," Marchibroda said afterward, stunned that Tobin had not budged from his miserly final offer. "I thought you got rewarded for the kind of season we just had." Apparently, Tobin hadn't trusted Marchibroda since the coach's decision in training camp to start Craig Erickson at quarterback over Jim Harbaugh. After Erickson put together two poor games, Marchibroda yanked him in favor of Harbaugh, who went on to lead the NFL in passing.

When the news about Marchibroda came on a television in the Omni Severin Hotel bar in Indianapolis Friday night, a bunch of NFL coaches and personnel people attending the scouting combine watched silently, disgusted that a good man like Marchibroda could get booted after an 11-win season. "Used to be winning counted for something in this league," one personnel director said.

Free-Agent Follies

The Steelers' accusation last week that the Jets jumped the Feb. 16 date for approaching free agents and tampered with quarterback Neil O'Donnell is specious. Pittsburgh is nudging O'Donnell out the door with the three-year offer it made him last week, which would pay him an average of $3.1 million per season: not bad, but little more than what he made this season. At least one team—possibly the Jets—will offer O'Donnell $4 million-plus a year....

The 49ers will come out of the free-agent signing period with a pass rusher, and it will probably be Leslie O'Neal (12.5 sacks last year for the Chargers) or Chris Doleman (nine sacks for the Falcons) depending on who is less expensive....

San Diego general manager Bobby Beathard will put on a full-court press to sign linebacker Bryan Cox, a free agent after five stormy seasons with the Dolphins, and pair him with Junior Seau.

Notes from the Combine

Pass rushers Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice of Illinois were expected to be the best defensive teammates on display at last weekend's scouting combine in Indianapolis. But they encountered strong competition from Cal defensive end Regan Upshaw and linebacker Duane Clemons, both of whom are leaving school a year early and will be drafted in the top 20. The 6'4½", 255-pound Upshaw was quicker and stronger than scouts had predicted. "He might have moved himself ahead of Rice this weekend," said Chargers director of player personnel Billy Devaney....

Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips, suspended from the team in September after he beat his ex-girlfriend, says he heard the same question in each of his interviews with coaches and general managers: "Everyone's asking me about my anger problem." Surprise! Phillips had other run-ins with police during his Nebraska years, and if he isn't picked in the top 10, his questionable character will clearly be the reason....

Chris Villarrial, a 6'5", 295-pound guard from Indiana of Pennsylvania, a Division II school, had scouts marveling at his strength. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 37 times and shot up from being a late-round prospect to a likely second-or third-rounder.

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