Mike McCormack will ride herd on the Baltimore Colts next season. The 49-year-old former head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles was named today to succeed Ted Marchibroda, who was fired after his second consecutive 5-11 season. McCormack joins the Colts from the Cincinnati Bengals, where he has been an assistant since 1976.
Details of McCormack's multiyear contract, which he said would be signed soon, though "not necessarily today," were not disclosed. "It's a pretty complex matter, but we're agreed on all the basic parts," he said.
General Manager Dick Szymanski, who picked McCormack over former Arizona State Coach Frank Kush and Navy Coach George Welsh, refused to disclose McCormack's powers on drafts, cuts personnel.
"We have a working relationship that is satisfactory to me and I hope it is satisfactory to them," McCormack said.
"I don't consider myself a figure-head," McCormack added.
McCormack's task will be to lasso the remnants of Marchibroda's 1975-1977 AFC championship teams by adding some "beef to the offensive line and finding a running back who can hoof it."
McCormack was asked if he feels any pressure from down yonder on owner Robert Irsay's ranch to win right away.
"Any coach coming in wants to start winning right away," he said. "I think the days of rebuilding programs are over. I think you do a team a disservice by coming in and saying we're planning on (winning) three or four years down the line. I don't think the Baltimore Colts are in that position."
But said Ernie Accorsi, the assistant general manager, the Colts are in "an unusual position. We're not an old team. In terms of age and experience we should be at out peak. We have won and we have lost but we won first and then we lost and that's going to be the hardest part of the job for Mike."
Part of McCormack's job will be to lessen the team's dependence on quarterback Bert Jones. "Almost any team depends on its quarterback," he said. "You try to minimize it by trying to attain some balance, a better running game, a better defense and by keeping the quarterback healthy."
If Jones is healthy, McCormack said, he will probably call his own plays. And if he is not? "I've been assured he is," said McCormack. "I don't even want to think about it."
The Colts will have two draft picks in both the first and second rounds this year. They probably will draft a quarterback, though not on a high round, said Accorsi.
McCormack said that if he had to name his No. 1 pick right now, without looking at the films -- a coaching prerequisite -- it would be Anthony Munoz, offensive lineman from USC, who has a history of knee injuries. "I scouted him during the Rose Bowl for the Bengals, he said, "but I wasn't head coach over there. When your head is not on the line you can give out a lot of free advice."
McCormack said he had heard rumors that offensive lineman George Kunz might want to come out of retirement. "That's one of the first calls I'm going to make," he said.
He also said he might consider moving running back Joe Washington to flanker and drafting another runner since it is "the year of the running back." f
For McCormack, the Colt job is a second chance at head coaching, a chance that a lot of assistants never get. "In baseball, managers get second and third chances," Accorsi said. "In football they don't get them. Mike's one guy everyone in football thought should have gotten a second chan chance."
McCormack played nine seasons for the Browns and retired in 1962. Four years later, he became an offensive line coach for the Washington Redskins, staying long enough to work under Otto Graham, Vince Lombardi and George Allen.
In 1973 he became the head coach of the Eagles. He lasted three seasons, finishing 16-25-1. "That probably kept him out of consideration for a lot of other jobs," said Accorsi. "Dick (Szymanski) wasn't oblivious to those three years. He saw something in his performance to make him think he had the makings of a successful coach."
"I am more of a teaching-type coach than George (Allen)," McCormack said. "He got experienced players and didn't try to teach them."
McCormack believes in fundamentals. He says he cannot see himself coaching from atop a tower. He will bean "on-the-field coach" (and offensive coordinator).
He does not think he will have any problems with Irsay, who sometimes screams at his coaches. "Football is an emotional game. Mr Irsay is emotional.I'm emotional. Anyone who isn't emotional isn't worth a damn," McCormack said.
And as for the press, he said, "I will never lie to you."
You could almost believe he was running for president.