Robert Kraft spoke glowingly about Bill Belichick as the sides worked through their separation and moved forward on different paths.

But in private, the Patriots owner might have talked down about his longtime New England colleague.

In a revelatory column published Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. detailed Belichick’s first offseason after leaving Foxboro, Mass., which saw arguably the greatest football coach of all time not claim a job in the hiring cycle. At one point, Belichick appeared to make serious headway to becoming the Falcons head coach, but Atlanta ultimately went with Raheem Morris instead.

There likely were a series of factors that pushed team owner Arthur Blank to pass on Belichick. But according to Van Natta, disparaging remarks from Kraft were included.

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“But in a conversation with Blank, Kraft delivered a stark assessment of Belichick’s character, according to a source who spoke to two people: a close Kraft friend and a longtime Belichick confidant,” Van Natta wrote. “The source quoted the Belichick source as saying, ‘Robert called Arthur to warn him not to trust Bill.’ That account was backed up, the source said, by the close Kraft friend.

“Multiple sources said that Kraft spoke with ‘some candor’ to Blank about Belichick, though the sources declined to elaborate. One source close to Belichick said Kraft ‘was a big part’ of why the Falcons passed on hiring him.”

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Through longtime Patriots spokesman Stacey James, Kraft “steadfastly denied saying anything negative” about Belichick to Blank over the offseason. However, James admitted he wouldn’t be surprised to learn Kraft might have “lamented” the Patriots’ struggles while speaking with Blank during the season.

Belichick reportedly was “blindsided” by the Falcons’ head coach decision, as he thought he “had done everything right” across a pair of interviews. That could’ve been the case, but it appears outside references seriously damaged Belichick’s candidacy.

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