Whitey Dovell said yesterday that his "firing" Sunday by owner Bob Irsay after the Colts' 33-10 loss to the New York Jets here probably could be traced to a stand that the offensive line coach took three years ago when Joe Thomas was general manager of the club.
"Thomas made a trade for offensive tackle Ed George and wanted me to play him ahead of George Kunz or David Taylor and I wouldn't do it, because they were better players. Thomas complained to Irsay," Dovell said.
"Then, two weeks ago, after we lost to the Eagles (by giving up 17 points in the last quarter), Irsay complained to me in the dressing room about the defense. After awhile, I said, 'Bob, there's three defensive coaches across the room; tell them.'
"Irsay was also saying that Ted (head coach Marchibroda) should have used some different plays and I said, 'Bob, I don't want to hear that.'
"I guess that didn't sit well with him.
"When I was told by a reporter that Irsay said fired me on Sunday, it hurt. We'd led the conference in offense in 1976 and have been up among the leaders for three years. We won our division title all three seasons.
"It hurt reading what Irsay said to the newspapers. My kids got sick after being told by friends what it said in the papers.
"What hurt most was the lies. The stories say that I tore the headset off Maxie Baughan's head and then called the defenses (Baughan is the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach).
"Why would I do that? I never had anything to do with the defense in my four years here."
Marchibroda interceded with Irsay Sunday on behalf of Dovell and saved his job, but Dovell said yesterday about staying on, "It was a tough decision. My wife said she kdidn't know how I could do it.
"I did it because of Ted and the players. Several of them called me after reading the story . . . not just those on the offensive unit. I must have gotten 150 calls from players I had coached over the years, from California to Texas to Baltimore."
Marchibroada said he did not have to battle hard to convince Irsay to change his mind.
"I told Irsay he could not fire Whitey; that he is the No. 1 offensive line coach I have ever known. I asked Irsay to excuse me while I talked to the reporters, but before that Irsay had already told Cameron Snyder of the (Baltimore) Sun that he had fired Whitey."
Another source said two reporters overheard an irate Irsay saying in the men's room of the Gridiron Club in Memorial Stadium tha the fired Dovell. Snyder asked Irsay to confirm it, which he did.
Dovell and Baughan had said publicly in 1976 that they would resign if Marchibroda was not rehired after a dispute following an exhibition game defest.
Marchibroda had quit in protest over interference by Thomas, who was backed at first bsy Irsay in the showdown. Marchibroda was rehired and Thomas was fired after quarterback Bert Jones led the players in backing Marchibroda.
The COlts' 2-5 record can be traced in part to injuries and to low morale attributed to the trade of Lydell Mitchell to San Diego after a salary dispute and racial grievaance, and to the trade of tight end Raymon Chester to Oakland after he complain
The COlt's 2-5 record can be traced in part to injuries and to low morale attributed to the trade of Lydell Mitchell to San Diego after a salary dispute and racial grievance, and to the trade of light end Raymond Chester to Oakland after he complained about the scarcity of passes thrown to him.
Defensive end Fred Cook two weeks ago said he wanted to be traded because of the handling of Mitchell and Chester, both team leaders.
During the game against the Eagles, defensive back Norm Thompson and guard Robert Pratt got into a shoving match in the sidelines because of a remark Thompson made about the offense that he said Pratt misconstrued.
Jones missed the first six regular season games because of a separation of his right shoulder. The regular cornerbacks were injured at one time and linebacker Stan White was hurt and defensive Joe Ehrmann was distracted by a serious family illness that caused him to miss practices. The offense lost two regular tackles for awhile because of injuries.
Mitchell's salary dispute had an overall efect on the squad. A consensus developed that there was scant hope of lesser players negotiating better contracts if a player such as Mitchell could not obtain a satisfactory raise above a $99,000 annual salary.
Because of Irsay's temporary invasion of Marchibroda's authority over his coaching staff and the bleak outlook for players in salary negotiations, speculation was building that the coach might be on shaky ground, particularly with another tough game coming up here Sunday, against Denver.
However, it was learned from other sources that Irsay was taught a lesson by the loss of Mitchell and that a contract dispute similar to that one is not likely to occur again.
Jones did not try to throw the ball in practice yesterday and Marchibroda said the question of whether he will be able to play Sunday is "day to day."
The aggravation Jones suffered against the Jets has been diagnosed as a bruise rather than a direct injury to the shoulder separation.