New England's success has meant increased recognition for Grogan, who is attempting to grow a beard, perhaps in an effort to remain anonymous. "We don't have anything like Boston in Kansas," he says. "I'm not used to going out shopping or to the movies and always being recognized. How do I handle it? I handle it by staying home."
On the field, though, he stays with his backs and his tight end, running the first and hitting the second with well-timed short passes. "With Grogan in the game," says Cunningham, "we're not going to try to bomb them. When Plunkett was our quarterback, he had a very good arm and we had to utilize it. But the thing is, you've got to set up the arm with the run. We know that with Grogan we're going to make the defenses run-conscious, and then work them with the pass."
One of Grogan's favorite targets is Francis, who thus far has caught 25 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns. Shortly before the Pats made Francis their first draft choice in 1975, scouts were sent to the University of Oregon to make a final check on the Hawaiian, who had refused to play his senior year (along with several other players) after a shake-up of the college team's coaching staff.
Francis convinced them with back-to-back 40s in 4.6 seconds each. After the Pats beat Pittsburgh earlier this season, Chuck Noll had this to say about Francis: "A special tight end." Says that other Chuck, who coaches in New England, "If you were to pick a prototype to play tight end, Russ Francis would be perfect." In other words, Francis has size, great hands and deceptive speed, and delights in cutting down defenders with crisp, cruel blocks.
Still, if Francis has done nothing more for the old whaling areas of America, he has at least made them familiar with a phrase picked up from his youth in Hawaii. As the ancient Polynesian shamans were known as "Kahuna," so too has Francis shamanized opponents. On the last play of the Patriots' 30-27 win over the Steelers, Pittsburgh Kicker Roy Gerela lined up for a game-tying field goal. On the sideline, Francis began mumbling, "Kahuna, Kahuna, Kahuna."
Before the Oakland game, Francis went on TV and made it work again.
And in Baltimore, the Kahunas once more worked their magic. "Bless this football, O great Kahuna, and help Russ hang on to it," pleaded one of his Hawaiian friends. Francis hung on to three passes that afternoon but pulled a hamstring after catching one of them and didn't play against the Jets.
The Patriots didn't require any Kahunas to beat the Jets, but they may need some outside help the next few weeks as they charge toward the playoffs. As the old Hawaiian adage goes, with a Kahuna in your game plan, you'll never be a turkey again.