New England Patriots president Jonathan Kraft wouldn’t get into specifics, but he gave an outline into how his team has been so successful since Bill Belichick took over the team as head coach and general manager in 2000.
Kraft praised Belichick’s capacity to take an analytical approach while also possessing the ability and experience to coach at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. On the same day that Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff — a Belichick disciple — and head coach Mike Smith talked about the relationship from the front office to the field, Kraft said the Patriots wanted to find a guy who could coach and deal with the salary cap when they were looking for a head coach in 2000. Kraft said Belichick’s ability to do both gives them a “competitive advantage.”
Kraft said it’s great to find a head coach and general manager that can maintain a great relationship and “fight like brothers,” but he said problems arise when the team starts losing. Part of Belichick’s ability to embrace analytics went into the team’s decision to cut safety Steve Gregory on Friday. The difference between Gregory and the next man up to start wasn’t worth their difference in salary.
Kraft also talked briefly about the “Patriot Way” in finding players with the right mixture of athleticism and intangibles. Kraft said the Patriots have a “qualitative way of valuing intangibles.” He wouldn’t specify what the system is.
Kraft also said the Patriots try to find players with a “passion to win” when interviewing prospects and searching for free agents. He said the team can’t put a numerical value on intangibles, but it goes into a formula.
Kraft also dispelled a theory that Belichick always looks for “yes men” in the front office. Kraft said Belichick likes to keep a small inner circle to prevent leaks to the media. He likes to hire young executives because he likes training them to run a football team, and they bring a different technological approach.
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