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A breath of fresh air
Joe Marshall
September 20, 1976
THE COLTS HIT THE FAN AFTER HIS RECENT EXPLOSION, SO OWNER IRSAY, WHO MADE MILLIONS IN AIR CONDITIONING, KEPT HIS COOL WHEN THEY BEAT THE PATS
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September 20, 1976

A Breath Of Fresh Air

THE COLTS HIT THE FAN AFTER HIS RECENT EXPLOSION, SO OWNER IRSAY, WHO MADE MILLIONS IN AIR CONDITIONING, KEPT HIS COOL WHEN THEY BEAT THE PATS

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The brash Jones, who is the Colts' unquestioned leader, prepared a letter chastising Thomas and Irsay, and he read it to the players at their meeting. They endorsed it unanimously. "I felt it was better to handle the situation that way," says Jones. "If we had left the situation open for individuals to make comments, people could have been hurt. There are a lot of people here who are 'disposable,' so to speak." The public statement was formal but to the point. It said, in part, " Thomas and Irsay may have completely destroyed this team by forcing Marchibroda out the week of the first league game." Jones also issued a few off-the-cuff comments. "Joe is an egomaniac," he said. Jones added that if he were not a player, he wouldn't go to a Colt game. "I hope there aren't 20 people at our first home game, and I would commend Baltimore for it," he said. Jones even placed a call to Commissioner Pete Rozelle to discuss possible solutions to the problem. By the eve of the New England game, Jones had mellowed slightly. "I like Joe Thomas personally," he said, "and he pays me well. But he was wrong this time. I told him I was going to blast him before I did it. I'm not going to say any more now. I've slapped his face enough."

When Marchibroda quit, Thomas reportedly offered the job to Assistant Coach Maxie Baughan. Baughan not only turned Thomas down flat, he threatened to resign. Other assistants also talked of leaving. With the season less than a week away, Thomas, the man who holds coaches in such low regard, suddenly realized he desperately needed them. So he phoned Marchibroda and asked him if he would return. Would Thomas accede to the terms Marchibroda had demanded in Milwaukee? Thomas obviously said yes, so Marchibroda also said yes. Since then Thomas has refused to discuss the matter. One day, in fact, he escaped the press by leaving Colt offices by a fire escape.

On Tuesday morning Marchibroda strode into a packed meeting room and was given a rousing ovation by the Colts. In the uproar Marchibroda couldn't make himself heard. On the night he resigned, Marchibroda had told the Colts that his situation was "like being third and eight or worse." Now, rather than try to shout above the noise, he simply walked to the blackboard and wrote, "First and 10."

Thomas missed Baltimore's victory at New England because of the illness of his wife, but Irsay watched from the visiting owners' box. At halftime Irsay was asked if last week's power struggle could happen again. "It could rain tomorrow," he said. "It rained the other day." For one of the few times in his five seasons as Baltimore's owner, though, Irsay did not make a postgame visit to the Colts' locker room. The players gave Marchibroda one game ball and Baughan another. "If Irsay was here, would he be getting a game ball?" Defensive Tackle Joe Ehrmann was asked. "Now what kind of question is that?" Ehrmann, retorted. Ah, peace.

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