Patriots' contribution to NFL history is a revolutionary knack for messing up

January 11, 1993|By Dan Shaughnessy | Dan Shaughnessy,Boston Globe

BOSTON -- Sam Jankovich has resigned. And we can only wonder what's next for this cursed House of Patriots.

Will the team be sold? Relocated? Dissolved? Kicked out of the NFL?

Is Mike Ditka on his way here? Bill Parcells? Dan Reeves? Doug Flutie as player-coach?

Will Elvis come back from Kalamazoo and replace Sad Sam Jankovich?

Nothing is impossible. These are the Patriots. Just when you think the Pats have done it all, they do something else. Has there ever been a franchise like this one? Anywhere?

For years, the Patriots have practiced on a field at a state mental institution. We're beginning to wonder if there's some connection.

These last few days rank near the top of the epic horror that is Patriots lore. Dick MacPherson was fired Friday night. Jankovich spent 20 hours washing the blood off his hands, then followed Mac to the gallows.

This chop-chop sequence ranks right up there with Clive Rush's near-electrocution at his introductory press conference. It ranks with Billy Sullivan pulling Chuck Fairbanks off the Orange Bowl field. It's up there with Victor Kiam's classic glitch and with Pat Sullivan wrestling Howie Long in one of the franchise's finest hours. It's right there with Stupor Bowls I & II, right there with Chuck Sullivan's Victory Tour and the Traffic-Jam-That-Ate-Route-1 when Schaefer Stadium was dedicated in 1971.

The Foxboro sports theater has had more names than Liz Taylor, but today we might as well call it the Bud Bowl. St. Louis beer magnate James Orthwein is running the show. Long-distance, of course.

Orthwein is in charge, but you've got to go way down the depth chart to find the next in command. CEO Jankovich has resigned. Coach MacPherson was fired. Co-owner Francis Murray was bought out. Vice president Joe Mendes was fired. Public relations director Pat Hanlon resigned. Mac's dozen assistants Saturday were manufacturing resumes at Copycat.

A glance at the official 1992 Patriots club directory indicates that at this hour, the No. 2 person in the Patriot chain of command is Lisa Coles, team cheerleader director and choreographer. Of course, if Orthwein can't find a buyer, Coles and the girls probably will be replaced by Ed MacMahon and the Clydesdales.

We were semi-prepared for the knifing of Mac, but it's still hard to believe that Sudden Sam is gone. Poof. Just like that. He could look no one in the eye when he dodged every question at Mac's execution Friday night. Now we know why. He had already plotted his own escape from Foxboro. Get out of Dodge before the sun goes down.

Think back two years. Sam was going to be the savior. Remember? He came here on the heels of LisaGate, on the heels of 1-15. He was a top college guy, a tireless administrator with great credentials. He was in charge of everything from paper clips to first-round picks.

He worked harder than anybody this side of Tom Coughlin. He was first to arrive and last to leave. He cracked down on everybody in the front office. He paid attention to details. He had control.

But then Kiam sold to Orthwein, and Sam was taking orders again. He carried out his final order Friday when he fired MacPherson. It was suggested that maybe the Pats fired the wrong guy, and Saturday Jankovich nodded in agreement.

It's rare stuff, indeed. But these are the Patriots. We should be shock-proof by now.

Sam is walking out on a five-year contract that would have paid him almost $2 million. He must have gotten some settlement. He must have wanted out of here pretty bad.

The best we can hope is that this will make it easier for Orthwein to sell the team. But what if there's no buyer? Or what if Orthwein decides that this is going to be his team? Can Orthwein put together a new front office in time to prepare for the draft? New England has the No. 1 pick. Can we do better than Ken (Game Day) Sims?

Here's hoping that the Patriots are sold to a local owner and that Parcells or Ditka comes to Foxboro to rescue our franchise. It's probably too much to ask. After all, these are the Patriots.

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