Patriots

Controversial ex-Patriots coach Ron Meyer dies at age 76

Ron Meyer, who coached the Patriots from 1982 until being fired in the middle of the 1984 season after a dispute with the front office -- and who earned the eternal enmity of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula for the infamous Snowplow Game -- has died.

He was 76.

Meyer was a college coach before joining the Pats, compiling records of 27-8 at UNLV from 1973-75 and 34-32-1 at SMU from 1976-81. The Mustangs won the Southwest Conference championship with a 10-1 record in '81.

Hired by the Patriots to replace Ron Erhardt after New England went 2-14 in 1981, Meyer led the Pats to the AFC playoffs in '82 with a 5-4 record during a strike-shortened season. That was the year Meyer directed Mark Henderson, on work release from prison, to take his snowplow on the field and clear a spot for kicker John Smith on a field-goal attempt during a snowstorm at what was then known as Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro. Smith hit the kick and gave the Patriots a 3-0 victory over the eventual AFC champion Dolphins, much to the fury of Miami coach Don Shula. Shula railed against Meyer's lack of sportsmanship and later, when after finishing his career with 347 victories, would always claim he "really" won 348, discounting the game which came to be known as the Snowplow Game.

Henderson's snowplow is on exhibit in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Shula got his revenge when the Dolphins defeated New England, 28-13, in the opening round of the 1982 playoffs. The Pats went 8-8 in '83, missing the playoffs, and Meyer was fired in midseason 1984 despite the team having a winning record (5-3) at the time. Meyer -- who by this time had alienated many of the players -- dismissed popular defensive coordinator Rod Rust after a 44-24 loss to Miami, though he had no authority to do so. General manager Patrick Sullivan responded by firing Meyer, hiring Raymond Berry to take his place, and reinstating Rust. 

The firing happened just prior to the 1984 presidential election between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. When asked who he would be voting for, Meyer famously replied: "Well, I was going to vote for Reagan. But now I'm unemployed, so I guess I'll vote for Mondale."

Meyer was hired by the Colts in 1986 and compiled a 36-35 record before being fired after an 0-5 start to the 1991 season. He led the franchise to its first playoff berth after moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis with a 9-6 record in 1987, another strike-shortened year.

He later coached in both the Canadian Football League and the short-lived XFL.