Grogan has 32 touchdowns on the ground in his 10-year career and has out-passed every previous Patriot quarterback, yet in the old days he often failed to hold his temper in check and the team together. Wherever Grogan was leading, no one seemed very anxious to follow. Chuck Fairbanks, then the Patriots coach, said in 1975, "We've got a young quarterback who can be great if he can ever learn to control his temper." Grogan didn't until last year. By then, even he believed it was too late.
Grogan remembered the glory years—or were they gory years?—when he would rush for hundreds of yards (539 in 1978) and end up listening to thousands of boos. "I threw six interceptions in one game in San Francisco in 1980," he says. "They splashed it all over the papers. Nobody spoke up and said I had risked my career by playing on two bad knees that day." There was the tragic overthrow to Darryl Stingley in 1978, then only the advancing years, including a 2-14 record in 1981, when the Pats had one of the highest payrolls in the league. There was Ea-son. Then, for Grogan, there was nothing. "The low point was playing in Kansas City during this year's preseason. I never took the headphones off," Grogan says. Two busloads of folks from his hometown, Ottawa, Kans., had driven an hour to Arrowhead Stadium to see what old Steve could do. He didn't play.
Now Grogan is a quarterback with a different anatomy. "He may have lost something here and here," says New England coach Raymond Berry, pointing to his arm and legs, "but he's gained it all here and here." Berry pointed to his head and heart. "He doesn't throw his helmet anymore," adds the Pats' defensive back Raymond Clayborn.
"I've learned to accept success and failure," says Grogan. He laughed a bit, flexing his small right hand. "Now that I know what to do, the only problem is that I can't do it anymore."
Oh? On Sunday, he was 13 for 22, with 190 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdown passes were artistic—a five-yard fade to Irving Fryar over cornerback Eugene Daniel and a neat 19-yard lob to Stanley Morgan. Fades, feathers, lobs—Grogan can throw all manner of touch passes now. Good thing, too, for his tender arm is no longer capable of zinging the ball 70 yards.
Grogan stands tall in the pocket. With knees that have been operated on four times—not to mention assorted injuries to his neck and throwing shoulder and arm—he can do little else, although he did beat both the Jets and the Dolphins on rollouts. He calls his own plays. Currently he is one of only two NFL quarterbacks—the other is whoever takes the snaps for Chuck Noll in Pittsburgh—to do so.
Against the Colts, Grogan's selection was impeccable. Johnny Unitas himself could not have mixed it up better.
The fans who had booed Grogan now adore him. "I have a radio call-in show, and all the people want to talk about is Steve Grogan," said G.M. Patrick Sullivan, whose father, Billy, is considering selling the team. "Not so much about how well he's played, but about his character, his willingness—about the man. They talk about him like he's Havlicek, Orr or Ted Williams." Grogan's light-hearted response: "Didn't they boo Ted Williams?"
After Sunday's game, Billy Sullivan was beaming at Grogan as if he were a long-lost son. "We'll let the market dictate the price of the team," he said. "And every week, the market goes up."