The New England Patriots have endured enough on-field flops this year to ruin three NFL teams, let alone this one, which is 1-12. They have gone through four centers, three quarterbacks and one defensive coordinator. Wide receiver Irving Fryar asked for a trade, their safeties probably should be traded and the defense has given up 95 points in the last three games.

There are other reasons why the Patriots probably will receive the top pick in next year's draft. Many of the spirited players that led New England to the 1986 Super Bowl, such as tight end Lin Dawson and guard Sean Farrell, have been let go. And when Dick Steinberg left last year to become general manager of the New York Jets, he took his unique penchant for evaluating talent with him.

You say, why is the NFL thinking of expanding when there are teams like the Patriots still around?

You're right. But it gets worse.

What really makes this team so bad, such a crippled organization, is what you and the Washington Redskins, next up for the Patriots, don't see. New England players, coaches and management say privately that there has been a glut of mistrust and uncertainty among them for several months.

It started with the investigation by a former Watergate prosecutor into the sexual harassment charges brought by reporter Lisa Olson on Sept. 17. Fines were eventually levied against three players and the club.

It is the investigation that has hurt this team more than anything, General Manager Patrick Sullivan said, and it "has cost this team a number of wins. No question about it.

"People that don't understand football might think we're trying to pass of the effects of the investigation as an excuse for our performance. People that do know football know what kind of devestating effect the investigation has had on our team."

When the investigation led by Phillip Heymann had reached an impasse, investigators asked Coach Rod Rust to talk to players for them and find out the specifics of what happened to Olson. Rust did, and certain players told the coach details of the incident.

Investigators then recalled some players that Rust had spoken with and asked them to discuss their conversations with Rust. Some players said recently they feel Rust betrayed them. Said one, "Rod came out to a lot of us looking like a tattletale."

"The investigation has created a level of mistrust among the players and coaches that has been impossible to overcome," Sullivan said, "and that has hurt us dearly."

Another player said there has not been a "team feeling" since the incident. "Everyone turned on everyone," he said. ". . . No one trusts anyone. Without trust a football team goes right down. That's what's happening right now."

There is chaos among the management and coaching staff. When defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner resigned on Wednesday it signaled the first of expected massive changes. In fact, many of the assistants think they will be fired the day after the Redskins game.

"I figure if I make it past lunch I'm okay," offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said. "If they run me off, they run me off."

"How are we supposed to plan to win when we're all busy packing our stuff?" another assistant asked.

Sullivan also could be out of a job soon. Team sources said owner Victor Kiam hopes to use Heymann's report, which was extremely critical of Sullivan, to get out of the contract that stipulates should he fire Sullivan before the deal expires, Kiam would have to pay him more than $2 million up front.

And last week, after published reports that the Patriots were talking with University of Miami Athletic Director Sam Jankovich about becoming general manager, Sullivan said he hadn't been informed of the discussions.

"The last time I spoke with Victor {early last week} he said I was an asset to the team," Sullivan explained. "We have not spoken since."

Kiam was asked if Sullivan's job is safe.

"Read the report," Kiam said, referring to Heymann's findings.

Kiam then was asked if he would give Sullivan a vote of confidence.

"Read the report," Kiam said.

The Patriots have lost a club-record 11 straight games -- and counting. And the team's current state of change won't help things get better.

"It doesn't look good for us to win another game," cornerback Maurice Hurst said. "I hate to say that, but it's probably true."