Ted Marchibroda, whose future as coach of the Baltimore Colts was in doubt before the season opened because of a conflict with general manager Joe Thomas, won the power struggle yesterday.
Thomas, who was also executive vice president and who helped to put together Bob Irsay's purchase of the club in 1972, was fired by the owner.
One fo the strongest contenders to become general manager is Dick Szymanski, director of pro personned who has been with the organization for 22 years as a center-linebacker, assistant personnel director and offensive line coach.
Thomas predicted that John Unitas would be selected and United recently said he would be interested.
Ernie Accorsi, former director of public relations for the Colts who now is assistant to George Halas, owner of the Chicago Bears and president of the National Football Conference, also has been boosted for the job.
Accorsi said from the national Football League office, "I'm aware that my name has been mentioned and I would be interested, but I have not been contacted by anyone connected with the Colts."
Dave Slattery, former executive assistant to president Edward Bennett Williams of the Washington Redskins, had talked to Marchibroda about the Colt position before Thomas was fired, an indication that the dismissal hardly came as a surprise.
There also is speculation that Marchibroda may be offered the general managership and may accept it.
Thomas had asked Irsay for permission to talk to the Atlanta Falcons, who are "cleaning house."
Frank Broyles, athletic director at the University of Arkansas, announced yesterday he was withdrawning as a candidate for the Falcon job as general manager.He reportedly had asked for a salary of $200.000. a long-term contract and stock in the club.
Thomas is said to have had one year left on a contract with the Colts that called for $125,000 annually for five years.
He is understood to have brought on his firing by asking for a new five-year contract at a beginning salary of $280,000.
Thomas said he will issue a statement Monday detailing "falsehoods" he contends Irsay gave out in the last few weeks.
Thomas became general manager in 1972 when Irsay, who operates a heating and air-conditioning firm in Skokie, III., technically bought the Los Angeles Rams for $19 million and traded that club to Carroll Rosenbloom, then owner of the Colts.
Thomas, who acquired a reputation by building up expansion franchises at Minnesota and Miami, irritated fans at Baltimore by benching Unitas and then trading him to San Diego. Other favorites disposed of were Tom Matte, John Mackey, Ted Hendricks and Mike Curtis.
The late Don McCafferty quit as head coach rather than bench Unitas and John Sandusky finished out the 1972 season.
Howard Schnellenberger was named coach the next season but was replaced by Thomas himself three games into the 1974 season. Meanwhile, the Colts slumped, from 5-9 in 1972 to 4-10 and finally 2-12 before Marchibroda as hired. The club that once had 51 straight sellouts saw its crowds drift away and did not have another sellout until 1975.
Marchibroda took the Colts to the playoffs his first season, with a 10-4 record, and was honored as coach of the year.
But after an exhibition-season loss to Detroit in 1976, he quit, charging front-office interference as Irsay backed Thomas. Quarterback Bert Jones said he would not play if Marchibroda was not persuaded to return with a year added to his contract and a promise of control over "all football matters."
Later, there were reports that Marchibroda and Thomas were not speaking to each other. The coach was irked when the general manager reportedly traded off reserve quarterback Marty Domres without telling Marchibroda.
Thomas did bring in quality personnel such as Jones, player of the year in the American Football Conference; defensive linemen Joe Ehrmann, Mike Barnes, Fred Cook and John Dutton - the Sack Pack - and wide receiver Roger Carr.
Thomas did not figure to endear himself with colleagues when he was quoted as saying after his firing, "I see men around this league posing as general managers. They have a nice smile; they shake hands with everybody; laugh and giggle. But they have teams that are 3-11 and 4-10."