Robert Kraft wants the New England Patriots to be better. He is, he insists, a fan of the team first and foremost.
The difference between Kraft and Larry from Chelmsford smoking his sausage in P2 (besides roughly $8 billion in net worth) is Kraft, you know, owns the team and gets to chart the future of the organization.
When it comes to the on-field football program, Kraft has entrusted Bill Belichick to put a perennial Super Bowl contender on the field. On the long list of Kraft’s savvy business decisions, making Belichick the CEO of football in Foxboro certainly ranks at or near the top of the list.
But there might be limits to even Belichick’s success. The Patriots, as Kraft was more than willing to point out Tuesday, haven’t won a playoff game since February 2019. For a team that made habit of winning Super Bowls, that’s a lifetime.
It doesn’t sound like Kraft’s patience is wearing thin just yet. The 80-year-old is publicly practicing patience with these new Patriots, but he made it no secret he expects more on-field success from the Belichick-led team.
Kraft made a financial commitment to the cause last year when he invested more than $160 million guaranteed on free agents. This year, his commitment is more abstract. He is putting his trust in Belichick and the coach’s track record, even if Belichick is taking a head-scratching approach to building his coaching staff.
At the NFL Annual Meeting on Tuesday, Kraft admitted even he’s unsure of the direction, essentially throwing his hands up and saying “In Bill we trust” — to an extent.
“I think we have it,” Kraft tepidly answered a question about his confidence in how Belichick has built his coaching staff.
“I think Bill has a unique way of doing things,” Kraft continued, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “It’s worked out pretty well up to now. I know what I don’t know and I try to stay out of the way of things I don’t know. I think he’s pretty good — over 40 years of experience doing it. It doesn’t look like ‘straight line’ to our fans, or to myself. But I’m results-oriented.”
The implication there is, while it might be unconventional if it works, then that’s all that matters. But results go both ways. Kraft has come to expect yearly championship contention. The “results” he seeks aren’t to simply contend for a playoff spot. At what point he starts to get fed up is the most fascinating storyline left in this Belichick run.
In the past, Tom Brady has helped Belichick’s “unique” approach look damn good. Certainly, Belichick gets credit for that, too, but Brady was the eraser. There were few coaching or personnel decisions he couldn’t overshadow with unicorn quarterbacking.
Now, Belichick doesn’t have that to fall back on. Instead, he’s got a second-year quarterback who just lost his high-level offensive coordinator, and had him replaced with a former receivers coach and an offensive line coach who’s best known as a defensive coordinator.
Unique, indeed. Belichick appears to be betting on himself here, and if he can’t produce the results his boss — and his fellow fans — crave, then we’re gonna find out where the rubber really meets the road for Kraft.