October 22, 2009

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LONGSHOTS: The Mt. Rushmore of Patriots moments
by Dave Long

Even before it occurred to me how absurd it was to honor the spirit of the American Revolution with uniform colors of the enemy British soldiers, I never was a big fan of the Patriots’ red uniforms. The helmet wasn’t bad, but I’ve always been a much bigger fan of the flying Elvis uni’s. Blue, silver, white and a dash of red — now THAT is a uniform to honor the heroic colonial army.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like what the Pats were part of when they started with those uniforms. That was brought home Sunday in their 59-0 crushing of the awful Titans, made even more astonishing because it wasn’t as close as it looked. The only bright spot for me with the Titans was that they were wearing the uniforms of their forefathers, the Houston Oilers. Now those are throwback uniforms I can get behind. First because I loved those derricks on the side of the helmets. And because they bring back memories of the Billy Cannon- and George Blanda-led Oilers, who were my favorite AFL team in the early days when Curt Gowdy called the week’s top game after the NFL’s Giants were done with the 1:00 game.

With those fond memories in mind, it’s time to honor the Patriots as they celebrate their 50th season since their AFL birth in 1960 with my Mt. Rushmore of all things Patriots. So here goes:

Wackiest Off-Field Moments: A Shocking Beginning for the New Coach: New head coach Clive Rush nearly got electrocuted at his introductory press conference when he grasped the microphone that no one remembered to ground. The Irving Fryer Car Accident: Has to be the only time in NFL history a guy got into a car accident during a game he was playing in. Happened when he went for a ride after getting hurt and he took Yogi’s advice — when you get to a fork in the road, take it. Which he did and bam! Chuck Fairbanks Gets Fired: It happened on the eve of a game in the 1978 playoffs when owner Billy Sullivan found out Fairbanks had signed a deal to return to college football. Billy got ticked and fired him. They then lost 31-4 to Houston. The Michael Jackson Victory Tour: It was anything but a victory for Chuck Sullivan, who knew nothing about the business, and it lost millions, which led to the team’s being sold to Victor Kiam.

Best Moments:  Beating Miami IN Miami in the 1985 playoffs: They always lost there, but this time they won and it sent them to the Super Bowl. Adam V sends it through II: A second Super Bowl win after an unbelievable fourth quarter. The Eagles Go Down: A third Super Bowl title in four years — not quite a dynasty, but a tremendous four-year run. Adam V beats the Rams: The greatest win in team history, as it was so unexpected when the year began and for taking out the 14-point favorite Rams.

Best Things to Happen to the Team: Bob Kraft buys the team: There’s not many better than him in any sport. Bill Parcells: The team’s value rose immediately after he took over and they were in the playoffs in two years and the Super Bowl in four. Then all heck broke lose. Coach B replaces Pete Carroll: Not much needs to be said here — he’s the best. Brady at 199: He wasn’t highly thought of coming out and behind Michael Bishop on the depth chart in year one — but you know the rest of the story.

Best Coaches: In order – Coach B, Bill Parcells, Chuck Fairbanks and tie between Raymond Berry and Mike Holovak. Fairbanks actually was a better GM than a coach as he accumulated a lot of talent. If you want to quibble about Coach B over Coach P, remember Bill Parcells never won, or went to the big game without Bill Belichick — but he’s got three on his own.

Worst Coaches: Rod Rust, Dick MacPhearson, John Mazur and Ron Meyer. The first three went a combined 20-70 in the seasons they coached and while Meyer’s record wasn’t bad, his actions put SMU on the death penalty after he left town and the sleaze factor made you want to take a shower when his name came up.

Blown First-Round Draft Picks: Dennis Byrd in 1968 — sixth overall pick lasted just ONE year and four Hall of Famers came after him, including the bruising Larry Czonka. Phil Olsen in 1970 — Never played a game for the Pats. Missed the 1970 season with an injury and was traded to the Rams before the 1971. Must have thought he’d be like Hall of Fame brother Merlin.  Kenneth Sims in 1982 — he was a hair better than an OK player, but when you’re the first overall and don’t make a Pro Bowl it’s a blown pick. Trevor Matich in 1985 — True, he was the last selection in round one and lasted 11 years. He makes it here because of how they got the 28th, which came after trading down from 16 with the 49ers, Bill Walsh used it to select a guy named Jerry Rice.

Best Non-Blown Top Draft Picks: Drew Bledose in 1993 — It was either him or Rick Mirer and the latter was a total bust. Richard Seymour sixth pick in 2001 — former Globe football writer Ron Borges was right when he said after the draft “you can’t pass on greatest,” which they did when they passed on Borges’ choice David Terrell to take Seymour in 2001. John Hannah third in 1973: A Hall of Famer from day one. Jim Plunkett first in 1971: He was Rookie of the Year and kept them relevant until Steve Grogan emerged when he got hurt. Chuck Fairbanks turned his trade into a windfall.

Diamond in the Rough Draft Picks: Nick Buonicoti — the 13th-round MLB became a Hall of Famer — though a lot of it came with work in Miami. Steve Grogan, fifth round 1974 — Toughest Patriot ever and a great running QB. Troy Brown, eighth round 1994 — its all-time receiver. Tom Brady at 199 in 2000 — Their best player ever.

Best Players:  (5) Adam V A kicker? He won two Super Bowls on the final play and has the greatest kick in history in the snow vs. Oakland to personify the term “clutch.” (4) Ty Law Played in four Super Bowls, had the first TD in XXXVI, three interceptions on Peyton Manning in 2003, and they haven’t been the same since he left. (3) Richard Seymour He became the defender everyone had to game plan against in the glory years. (2) John Hannah Maybe the greatest lineman ever and certainly of his era, when the Patriots’ running game was tremendous. (1) Tom Brady It’s not just the titles or the 50-TD-pass season; it’s the entire package — tough, clutch, smart and humble.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


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