Ted Johnson had no clue how bad Patriots were before he arrived
The New England Patriots recent dynasty years overshadow the more humble beginnings of the organization. The team went through many bad years before eventually winning their first Super Bowl Championship in 2001. Then, of course, five more titles followed.
Parts of conversation abbreviated for clarity.
Wallach: The thing that I found amazing before we came on the air today is that Ted had no knowledge of how bad this Patriots franchise was before he got here. Here we are all these years later. He had no idea what a tailspin this franchise was before he got drafted and arrived here with Bill Parcells.
Ted, when I tell you, it was the laughingstock of the league. I’m not underselling this. James Orthwein owned the team for literally three years. He’s the guy that hired Parcells.
But this team was on the verge of moving to either Connecticut or Saint Louis, who just lost the Rams at the time. Saint Louis even had the facilities and stadium to make a move possible. And there was, you know, Zeke Mowatt and Lisa Olsen in the early nineties.
And, you know, then there was Dick MacPherson, a real rah-rah guy. He won six games with Hugh Millen at quarterback, and we were so happy that we went 6-10. Before that, we had Rod Rust going 1-15.
And you had no knowledge of any of this?
Ted Johnson: Growing up in San Diego, I’ll be honest, you just never saw Patriots games on television–
Wallach: –Well, there was a reason for that!
By the way, we never saw them either because back then, the rule was that you had to sell out a game to watch it locally on TV. The only games that we saw on TV were Patriots road games. And we had the Z-team television broadcasters because the Patriots were the lowest guys on the totem pole.
The home games never sold out. So, every time the team played at home, we couldn’t watch them on TV. That’s how bad it was here.
Ted Johnson: I’ll be honest, that’s incredible. I knew the team was bad but maybe not to what degree.
Wallach: By the way, Sam Jankovic, the former athletic director at the University of Miami, somehow got the job as general manager of the Patriots. And he had no business being a GM.
Ted Johnson: With Orthwein, can you imagine an NFL owner buying a team, then selling it three years later? In today’s market, that would be crazy.
Wallach: I think he realized that he wouldn’t be able to get the deal to move the team to Saint Louis. At the time, that was the rumor–that he wanted to move the team.
When he realized he couldn’t move the team to Saint Louis, he hired Parcells to make the franchise more attractive to prospective buyers.
Then Robert Kraft came along, and he was the season ticket holder. He stepped up and said, okay, I’ll buy the franchise. And away we went!
Ted Johnson: I’m just surprised. Owners that threaten to relocate their teams rarely end up doing so. If they don’t move the team, they just end up selling. Like, usually, it’s just a way to get leverage. Orthwein really did want to get rid of the team. And when it seemed like nobody else wanted the team, he sold it to Robert Kraft.
Wallach: Orthwein made sure that he had one really attractive guy attached to the product in Parcells. And that jacked up the price to the point where Orthwein could make a significant profit. I’m sure I’m missing a few historical details. Again, this is going way back to 1994, ’95-ish, right before you got here.
Ted Johnson: Yup, I got here right in 1995.
Wallach: The Patriots had gone to a Super Bowl five years before. It’s not like we didn’t know what success was. We weren’t dumb.
But, Ted, when you guys all showed up, everything changed. And thank God, because it could’ve been a whole lot worse for years to come.