The Baltimore Colts have developed a consensus as to who their next head coach should be and the field has been narrowed to Mike McCormack, offensive line coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, and George Welsh of the Naval Academy, it has been learned.
Since Ted Marchibroda was fired, the Colts have crosschecked their accumulated advice and club owner Bob Irsay is expected to decide next week.
Frank Kush, formerly of Arizona State, had been reported as the leading candidate before the Baltimore Sun quoted him in Friday's editions as saying he had not talked to Dick Szymanski, the Colts' general manager, since an interview two weeks ago. "He told me at the time he might get back to me," Kush said from his home in Tempe, Ariz.
Welsh refused to comment on the report that he was a front-runner for the job, but admitted talking to Szymanski a week ago.
"He talked to me and said they were looking for a coach," Welsh said. "He didn't even say he'd get back to me. I have had no indication since then that they are interested in me."
Only Joe Peterno of Penn State underwent a 180-degree change of attitude about coaching in professional football and suddenly telephoned the Colts would there likely be a shift in the Colt's planning.
Of all those whose opinions the Colts sought about hiring a coach, about 95 percent recommended McCormack, former head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and one-time offensive line coach of the Washington Redskins.
McCormack said last night he met with Szymanski Tuesday and that he had been told they would meet again "in the foreseeable future".
When the Colts sought permission to talk to McCormack, Bengal assistant general manager Mike Brown and his father, Paul Brown, the vice president and general manager, volunteered unqualified endorsements of McCormack.
That prompted the question: Why didn't they promote McCormack to their head coaching job rather than go outside the organization to engage Forrest Gregg after Homer Rice was dismissed?
The rationale was that the Bengals were disinclined to move up a staff member again after former assistants Bill Johnson and Rice did not produce as head coaches. The Colts were surprised that the Bengals didn't promote McCormack.
McCormack, 49, coached the Eagles 1973-75. He took over a team that had a 2-11-1 record under Eddie Khayat in 1972 and had 8-5-1, 7-7 and 4-10 seasons for an overall record of 16-25-1 before being dismissed in favor of Dick Vermeil.
The Colts and their advisers have accounted for that by surmising that McCormack tried to be "a little like" his former Redskin boss, George Allen.
The Baltimore organization has made it clear that it expects McCormack to use Paul Brown's system if he is tapped for the Colts' job.
McCormack's acquaintance with Brown's methods dates back to when he was a guard, then a linebacker with the Cleveland club, 1954-1962, while Paul Brown was head coach and general manager there.
Allen was a candidate for the Colts' job before being eliminated and reportedly underwent the same process with the St. Louis Cardinals, who recently fired Bud Wilkinson and named personnel director Larry Wilson interim head coach.
The opposition to Allen is said to be due to his philosphy of trading draft choices for proven veterans and paying players more than other clubs.
Welsh frequently has been interviewed for other college jobs, but has declined them.
Kush is embroiled in a controversy over the treatment of athletes on the field and because of alleged academic irregularities. Kush previously turned down offers from other colleges.