Kraft should stop explaining and just accept Patriots fans' ire


Kraft should stop explaining and just accept Patriots fans' ire

FOXBORO – Never mind what Robert Kraft was attempting to do last May when he folded the Patriots’ tent and said the team would “reluctantly” accept the league’s Deflategate penalties. 

Forget about the fact there was really no other option than to do what he did in San Francisco.

The hole Kraft dug for himself when he opted for politics over optics is one he’s trying furiously to dig out of. Still.

Friday night at a draft party the team hosted at Gillette, Kraft’s main talking point was – again – that he didn’t abandon Brady last May.

“Number one, there is no finer ambassador for the game of football, and the New England Patriots, than Tom Brady,” Kraft said. “We always have had, and will continue to have, Tom’s back. Especially when he’s being treated unfairly. He knows that. All the decisions that this organization and I personally have made throughout this ordeal have been focused on putting Tom in the best possible position for success.”

Kraft believed taking the hit on the draft picks would satiate other owners enough to leave Brady alone. But they – and their arrogant marionette Roger Goodell – wanted more than to see Bill Belichick’s program stung. They wanted to see Brady brought to heel.  

Once that dawned on Kraft over the coming months, he returned to the rhetoric he used when he began fomenting local outrage at the Super Bowl, demanding a league apology. He even ratcheted it up, speaking at the outset of training camp about having made a grave mistake when he put faith in the league to do the right thing.

But for too many New England fans, it was too late. In their minds, all it took was 24 hours of fellow owners giving him the stink eye in California for him to side with the billionaire boys club over Brady.

Kraft anticipated an unhappy reaction, saying last May, “I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision. But I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans and the NFL. I hope you all can respect that.”

He never expected to be demonized the way he’s been. And, to Kraft, it’s maddening, saddening and hurtful that the vocal opinion in New England is that he screwed Brady.

He’s refusing to take the criticism in stride, which means every time he’s in front of a mic, he has to prove his bona fides.   

“I have been in constant communication with Tom over the past 16 months and we’ve had numerous conversations this past week,” Kraft said. “We are both on the same page and he knows exactly where my allegiances, and the total team’s [allegiances] are, relative to the extremely unfair discipline that he has been subjected to. I share in our fans’ anger and frustration with the penalties the league has levied, and the entire process and how it was conducted. But please trust that I am always trying to do what I believe is best for this franchise, and pledge that I will always continue to do that.”

This is where Robert Kraft is at the age of 74. A man who figured he’d be praised and adored in the autumn of his ownership reign having to pledge allegiance over and over to HIS region and HIS team.

It’s got to be unfathomable to him how it got to this point.

Here’s a lifelong New Englander who – he’s always happy to remind everyone – sat on the metal benches with all the other bedraggled fans in the old stadium. A guy who used his business savvy to leverage purchase of the team, stubbed his toe a lot in his first few years, then made decisions and gave resources that allowed the Patriots to become the greatest dynasty in NFL history. A guy that built a kickass stadium and donated millions around the region. This is a guy that now feels compelled to explain himself and beg understanding every time he gets in front of a microphone these days.

I don’t think he deserves that.

There are plenty of things that I’ve eyerolled about with Kraft in my 20 years covering the team. From white-collared shirts to his weird game-day lifeguard chair to the subtle switch from Bob to Robert, the damn sneakers with the suits, slinging spirituality a little too cavalierly at times and his happy engagement in the NFL’s backroom lever-pulling and deal-making. For almost 25 years, Kraft has ridden a lead horse in the NFL’s stampede for money and power. The Game of Thrones environment that’s come with that, replete with throat-slitting, backstabbing and vengeance has visited Kraft’s kingdom.

You can second-guess his strategy. You can point out that he’s the one that made a king of Goodell and sowed bitterness with fellow owners by pushing them to do what Roger says. You can rightfully point out that Kraft wants too much the love and respect of both his fellow owners and his New England constituency and that he can’t have his cake and eat it too.

You can’t reasonably regard him as a “traitor.”

Unfortunately for Robert Kraft, plenty of people do. And plenty of them aren’t going to move off that spot.

At some point, he’s got to get his mind around that and accept that too.


Patricia steps out of Belichick's shadow - 'I do feel like I'm my own person'

Patricia steps out of Belichick's shadow - 'I do feel like I'm my own person'

When Matt Patricia stepped to the podium for his first press conference as head coach of the Detroit Lions, he made one thing very clear: He's not Bill Belichick, and he's not trying to be Bill Belichick.

"There's only one coach Belichick," said Patricia. "He's in New England. I'm Matt Patricia. I'm my own guy. I have my own style, but I'll take all those lessons about how to teach and coach that we had in New England that I think are strong."

We're not yet three full weeks into the 2018 season, and reportedly some of those lessons have already rubbed players the wrong way. After Week 1, Patricia had unnamed players going to the media, saying they're unhappy with how hard they're being worked by their new coach.

Belichick has said many times that he's not an easy coach to play for. Players who have come from other programs and tried to stick in New England haven't always lasted when they've been taken aback by the amount of work, the amount of pressure, they've found at their new job.

For Patricia, it must be hard to juggle it all. 

He's someone who has spent the majority of his professional career in New England under Belichick. He's also seen Belichick's methods work.

How do you try to use what you know, use what you've succeeded with, and still come across to your players as someone who isn't trying to be like his old boss?

"I’ve really always appreciated how much time that coach Belichick spent with me individually and taught me as a coach and taught me a lot about the importance of trying to coach a team and coach a defense, which I think has been really phenomenal from that standpoint," Patricia said. "But I think even through the progression of my coaching career before the Patriots – Syracuse, Amherst, whatever it is – I do feel like I am kind of my own person, my own personality with the players. It’s still me, like, I don’t think that you would ever change that as a coach.

"I think the guys that I had in New England, as a young linebackers coach, there was no other way to coach those guys. And I learned more from those guys than anyone. Great players, the Mike Vrabels, and Tedy Bruschis and Junior Seaus and Willie McGinests, Rosevelt Colvin and just the list goes on, Larry Izzo. I mean, just how to be yourself but also teach and coach the importance of what needs to be taught for everyone to be successful. I think that’s really the biggest thing."

It makes sense. You can still teach many of the Patriots methods without acting like the boss in New England. But when you spend many of your pre-head coaching years in a certain place, that place can't help but rub off on you. Especially when it's the Patriots. The pull to experience even a sliver of the level of success they've achieved has to be Herculean.

What Patricia has said he's done in establishing a culture in Detroit is try an amalgamation of what he knows and what he's learning from others on the Lions staff. The culture is one that will focus on "collective" achievement, he said, and will utilize lessons learned from others brought up in other systems. 

But that pull is forever there. It's on the sidelines. It's in the front office, where former Patriots director of pro scouting Bob Quinn has resided for more than two years. It's on the field.  

Patricia has five former Patriots on the roster: LeGarrette Blount, Matt Cassel, Tavon Wilson, Marquis Flowers and Ricky Jean Francois.

"The good thing is when I got here, there was obviously a tremendous amount of good players and great leadership here already so that was pretty easy for me from that standpoint," Patricia said. "A lot of it has just been building those relationships and getting everyone to understand a little bit more about our big goal and how we need to play and some of the certain things that we need to do. 

"Obviously bringing in guys that are familiar with me I think helps that situation from the standpoint to translate or relate to those players from a player-to-player standpoint which sometimes is easier than a coach-to-player standpoint. But I think it’s all been consistent. I think those guys that were able to come in that know me, I obviously brought in because those are guys I think can help us win and play for us and do a good job of contributing."

How Patricia strikes that balance, of making sure he's doing things differently than his old boss yet implementing the things that made his old boss' teams successful, will be fodder for a national media landscape that has long fascinated by anything Patriots-related. 

Now 0-2, Patricia isn't starting with much in terms of leeway. But he has a chance to make a statement -- that not only is he not his old coach, but he has the chops to compete with him -- Sunday night at home.



Why did Bill Belichick originally not speak about the Josh Gordon trade?

Why did Bill Belichick originally not speak about the Josh Gordon trade?

Why was Bill Belichick so tight-lipped - even more than he normally is, and that's saying something - about the Patriots' acquisition of troubled receiver Josh Gordon?

Perhaps the Patriots coach saw it as a transgression that the Browns put out a press release on the trade Monday before it actually had been finalized.

The Patriots then re-opened the deal and got the seventh-round pick that assured that had been conditional.

Watch the video above for more on the Gordon deal.