BOSTON -- We're reaching some uncharted territory for many football fans in New England.
When this year's Patriots fell to 2-8, it was the first time the team had that record through 10 games since the year 2000, Bill Belichick's first season in New England. Most of us have some distinct memories of that season, even though it was -- gulp -- 23 years ago.
But now that they're 2-9? That hasn't happened since 1992, which ... if we do some math ... divide by 6 ... carry the 3 ... find the cosine and measure the hypotenuse ... yup. That was 31 years ago.
Surely, plenty of fans over 40 have memories of that season. But anyone born from the mid-1980s on can't really recall anything from that season.
Fortunately, the internet never forgets anything, so let's take a little stroll down memory lane.
The Patriots finished 2-14 under head coach Dick MacPherson
Back-to-back wins in Weeks 11 and 12 were the lone victories of the year for this team. They beat the Colts in overtime, thanks to Scott Zolak's AFC Player of the Week performance, and then whooped the Jets 24-3 back in Foxboro a week later.
They only lost by two points to the Browns, three points to the Dolphins, four points to the Seahawks and six points to the Colts. So there were some close games, but just the two wins.
1992 was the last year the Patriots wore red uniforms full-time
Pat Patriot went out with a bang, with the Patriots pushing the playoff-bound Dolphins to overtime in Week 17. Alas, the upset fell short, with Pete Stoyanovich hitting a 35-yard field goal in Foxboro to give the Dolphins their 11th victory of the year. Don Shula was likely happy to not see any snow plows involved in this one.
That entire game is on YouTube, by the way, in case you've got a couple of hours to kill.
Four different quarterbacks started games
Similar to the current Patriots, the 1992 squad had a quarterback problem.
Hugh Millen went 0-7 as the starter, Tom Hodson was 0-2, and Jeff Carlson was 0-2. The only QB to win a game was Scott Zolak, who was 2-2 as a starter.
Millen threw eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Zolak had two touchdowns and four picks. Hodson had even TD-to-INT ratio with two of each, while Carlson threw one touchdown and three picks. As a team, the Patriots' passer rating was 63.2, with 19 interceptions to just 13 touchdowns.
They ranked 26th (third-to-last) in passing yards with 2,034 and 26th in touchdown passes. They also took the second-most sacks in the league with 65.
The team underwent an ownership change in the offseason
In March of 1992, Victor Kiam sold his 51 percent majority stake in the team to James Busch Orthwein.
Orthwein was part of an effort to bring an NFL team to St. Louis, so speculation abounded that he'd try to move the Patriots to Missouri. Fortunately for the fine people of New England, a man named Robert Kraft had been spending years buying up the land around Foxboro Stadium before gaining control of the stadium itself. He refused to let the Patriots out of their lease, which ran through 2001, which effectively ended Orthwein's interest in owning the New England Patriots.
Kraft, as you've heard by now, became the owner in 1994. Things improved after that.
The Patriots landed the No. 1 pick
Going 2-14 has its benefits, like landing the top pick in the draft. New England got that pick thanks to a head-to-head loss with the Seahawks in Week 2, when Seattle eked out a 10-6 victory in Foxboro. The Patriots used the top pick on Drew Bledsoe out of Washington, with Rick Mirer out of Notre Dame going second overall to the Seahawks. The Patriots got the better QB there.
Irving Fryar was the offensive "star"
A team that ranks 27th in offense (out of 28 teams) doesn't really have stars, but Irving Fryar led the team in yards from scrimmage with 797.
Interestingly, a second-year tight end named Ben Coates was behind him with three touchdowns. It's interesting because at that point, Coates wasn't exactly a top target. Through his first two NFL seasons, he caught just 30 passes for 266 yards. He took a big leap in 1993 with Bledsoe at QB, on his way to making three All-Pro teams and five straight Pro Bowls.
The leading rushers were Jon Vaughn (451 yards, 1 TD), Leonard Russell (390 yards, 2 TDs), John Stephens (277 yards, 2 TDs) and Scott Lockwood (162 yards, 0 TDs). One fascinating detail is that the Patriots didn't score a rushing touchdown until their ninth game of the season. That seems difficult to do.
The Patriots had one game where they gained 94 yards of total offense. As in ... they had the equivalent of one good drive, but it took them 60 minutes to get there. They lost that game 6-0 to the Colts. We can assume it was difficult to watch. Zolak and Millen combined for 92 passing yards but just 23 net passing yards, thanks to eight sacks for 69 lost yards. They had 105 total yards in a 34-0 loss in Atlanta, and 122 total yards in a 31-14 loss to the Saints.
Hall of Famer Andre Tippett led the defense in sacks
Andre Tippett had seven sacks, leading the team despite missing two games in what was his penultimate season. Both Maurice Hurst and Jerome Henderson had three interceptions to tie for the team lead, while linebacker Vincent Brown led the team with 103 tackles.
They held Jerry Rice to just 60 yards (and a touchdown) in a home game against the 49ers. Steve Young, who was the NFL MVP that year, had just 234 passing yards with two touchdowns and one interception while taking two sacks. He did run nine times for 69 yards, though. (That Niners game is also on YouTube.) They also got lit up by Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas in a home game against the Bills, a contest where Andre Reed had 168 receiving yards, James Lofton had 113 receiving yards, and Thomas had 120 rushing yards. Those Bills eventually made the Super Bowl, where they got trounced by the Cowboys. That was the third of Buffalo's four consecutive Super Bowl losses.
Dan Marino also had a four-touchdown game against the Patriots in Miami.
There was no instant replay review
If you think instant replay review can be a chore now, imagine what it was like in the late '80s and early '90s. It was so clunky back then that the league scrapped it altogether for the 1992 season.
"Basically, it was a great theory that didn't work in practice," Eagles owner Norman Braman said after 17 owners voted to get rid of the system.
It didn't return until 1999. The officials probably got every call correct during that break, no doubt.
Movies, music, etc.
It's not a retrospective without some pop culture references.
The top-grossing movies of 1992 were "Batman Returns," "Lethal Weapon 3," "Sister Act," "Home Alone 2: Lost In New York" and "Wayne's World." Disney's "Aladdin" ranked eighth at the box office, behind the baseball classic "A League Of Their Own." The film "Patriot Games," which fortunately was not about New England Patriot games, came in at No. 11.
The top-selling album released in 1992 was the soundtrack to "The Bodyguard," because Whitney Houston was that powerful. Eric Clapton's Unplugged album was the third-best selling album of the year, behind ... Abba's greatest hits collection. R.E.M.'s "Automatic For the People" ranked fourth in sales, followed by Kenny G's "Breathless" and Garth Brooks' "The Chase." Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" was the 19th-best selling album of 1992, with Rage Against the Machine's self-titled debut just behind at No. 20. Though they were released in 1991, Garth Brooks' "Ropin' The Wind," Nirvana's "Nevermind," Michael Jackson's "Dangerous," U2's "Achtung Baby" and Metallica's self-titled album (aka "The Black Album") remained top sellers in 1992. "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus also became a hit.
The average cost for a gallon of gas was $1.13, which converts to about $2.34 in today's dollars.
Apparently, 10 websites existed, though the average person would not have known how to access them. That changed rapidly in the years that followed.
Bill Clinton won the presidency of incumbent George H.W. Bush, with Clinton getting 370 electoral votes to Bush's 168. Independent Ross Perot received almost 19 percent of the popular vote but failed to secure any states.
"60 Minutes" led in television ratings, followed by "Roseanne," "Home Improvement," "Murphy Brown," "Murder, She Wrote," and "Coach." The NFL's Monday Night Football ranked seventh in the ratings. Boston-based "Cheers" ranked ninth in its final season, with "Full House" rounding out the top 10.
Bruce Armstrong had some rare missed games
The legendary Bruce Armstrong was limited to just eight games due to a knee injury. It was one of just two years in Armstrong's 14-season career that he didn't start all 16 games for the Patriots. He played in 12 games as a rookie in 1987 and played the eight games in 1992. But from 1988-91 and from 1993-2000, he started all 16 games, earning six Pro Bowl nods and a pair of spots on the Second All-Pro Team.
This guy wore this spectacular neck roll
There's just something about that early '90s aesthetic that can give you the feely feels. This picture -- of defensive end Steve Emtman during a game against the Patriots -- delivers on that front.
It's neither here nor there, but what kind of narrator would I be if I didn't bring you along for this part of the journey?
The Patriots added 18 players through the draft prior to the 1992 season, with Eugene Chung being the top pick at No. 13 overall. Linebacker Todd Collins was taken in the third round, fullback Kevin Turner was drafted in the third round as well. Sam Gash, who played on the team through 1997, was an eighth-round pick out of Penn State. And in a sign of the times, the Patriots used the 333rd overall pick in the 12th round on wide receiver Freeman Baysinger out of Humboldt State. He didn't stick around, though.
They also picked guard David Dixon in the ninth round, and though he never played for the Patriots, he eventually carved out an 11-year career with the Vikings.
The future began
While we're looking at the 1992 in retrospect, it's clear that the season became all about the future. The team hired Bill Parcells in the offseason, and combined with the selection of Bledsoe, the seeds were planted for future success in New England. Kraft's purchase of the team in 1994 completed the transformation of the Patriots into the team we've become quite familiar with through the '90s, 2000s, and 2010s.
In that sense, this year's team could resemble that 1992 team even more in the coming months. The Patriots seem likely to move on from Bill Belichick after his 24 years (!) of service to the franchise, a tenure that's included six Super Bowl victories, nine AFC championships, and 17 AFC East crowns.
The current team is also positioned to potentially select a franchise-altering quarterback, as they'rein the 2024 NFL Draft.
The 2-14 Patriots in 1992 -- just two years after the Rod Rust-led 1-15 Patriots of 1990 -- showed that bottoming out can be quite ugly. But it's sometimes necessary for a franchise to complete a rebuild and turnaround. The Patriots made the playoffs in 1994 (losing to Belichick's Cleveland Browns) and made it to the Super Bowl in 1996. Though they lost to the Packers in that Super Bowl, it was a level that was hard to envision the Patriots reaching as they sludged through that '92 campaign.
That history doesn't make the present any more enjoyable for anybody in New England right now, but it at least provides some reason to believe better days are not all that far away.
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