FOXBORO, Mass. -- The New England Patriots made it official yesterday -- they have chosen to rejuvenate themselves by hiring an old-time coach with old-time values.
The Patriots' choice of Dick MacPherson as their head coach happened so quickly and surprisingly that when it was announced yesterday, even MacPherson did not seem completely prepared.
But MacPherson, 60, was his genuine, unprepossessing self as he survived a news conference and then departed to explain his circumstances to his former associates and players.
"What the hell's wrong with a 60-year-old man being excited?" MacPherson said. "It's easy to be a young coach. The secret is being an old coach and people being excited about you."
Estimates of MacPherson's contract terms had it at three or four years at about $350,000 per year. He earned $116,000 from Syracuse, plus at least an equal amount in outside income, in 1988.
The salary, though a mighty improvement for MacPherson, is not among the highest in the NFL coaching ranks. But the Patriots are now paying three head coaches -- Rod Rust, who has two years remaining, Raymond Berry, whose contract expires next month, and MacPherson.
The swiftness of the hiring -- Rust was just fired Friday -- placed MacPherson in a difficult position as he extemporized on a stage before a packed Stadium Club room at Foxboro Stadium.
He treated the gathering as a combination of a booster group motivational speech, coaching clinic joke-around, prayer service (one of his brothers, the Rev. Normand MacPherson, attended) and reunion of old friends.
Most of his presentation worked. He compared his attitude toward coaching football -- "enthusiasm, innovation, perseverance" -- to a marital relationship.
"Wouldn't your wife love you if every night you were enthusiastic?" MacPherson said in his best after-dinner banquet style.
"Wouldn't your wife love you if every night you were innovative? Wouldn't your wife love you if every night you persevered?"
Each query brought increased laughter from the crowd, a mixture of men and women stadium workers, Patriots employees and media, but he followed it with a bit about surviving the Depression Era in a family of 12 children.
This will not be an easy job, though, for someone whose last NFL affiliation was as a Cleveland linebacker coach in 1980.
MacPherson had to admit, "I have no idea who the hell the people are here. For the last 10 years, I've been a college coach. When I was in the pros, I had no idea what was going on in college."
But at least the overall effect of the introduction was definitive and positive, unlike the last hiring, when Rust left a dull image and was afforded even less time than MacPherson to prepare for the season.