Patriots

Patriots

ORLANDO -- Between Sunday and Tuesday, we had nearly an hour of access to Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft.

Even after all that, we are still left interpreting.

It's ironic that a team whose coach popularized the phrase "It is what it is . . . " makes it so difficult to figure out what "is” really is.

The much-discussed meeting between Kraft, Belichick and Tom Brady has, according to Kraft, taken place. "We've had the meeting,” Kraft said on Monday.

Kraft said he also met with each man individually. What was discussed? What was resolved? Was there an "air-clearing” or was this just standard practice?

Kraft's use of the word "the” indicates this was the postseason meeting Kraft reportedly was looking forward to. It wasn't just three guys passing each other in the break room. There was a specific aim.

But then, in the next breath, Kraft tamped down expectation that the meeting was particularly noteworthy.

"And just to be clear . . . we have meetings all the time,” Kraft cautioned. "We're not a big, bureaucratic organization. We're a private company. We don't have boards we answer to. We answer to the fans the best we can.”

But back to the meeting.

"We met. And I meet individually with each of them,” said Kraft. "But . . . Bill and Tom communicate and meet a lot and spend a lot of time communicating. I think the residual of this loss was really hard on everyone. But I sort of see that as a high-class problem because I sat in the stands when we never were in the playoffs at home for 20-odd years.”

 

The aim, obviously, was to make it seem like Belichick and Brady are in lockstep and in frequent communication. Brady's discomfort wasn't tied to anything but the loss to Philly, Kraft infers.

But it wasn't just the Super Bowl. Allusions to 2017 being a particularly hard season for Brady were present long before the team ever left for Minnesota.

Confusing.

Meanwhile, when I asked Belichick on Sunday about the comments made by Brady at the end of his documentary, this was his reply: "So, I've had direct conversations with Tom many times over a long period of time. I'll rely on those conversations I have with him directly rather than something else. Tom and I have always had a good line of communication, we've always been able to talk directly with each other. I don't see that changing. I'll rely on those instead of . . . anything else.”

Again, it's interpretation time. "Direct conversations with Tom many times over a long period of time” means . . . what? For the last 18 years? Over the 49 days since the Super Bowl ended?

Was the idea that Brady isn't feeling appreciated or having "fun,” as was indicated in the final Tom vs. Time episode, broached?

Was a revised retirement timetable discussed since Brady has seemingly pulled back from his pledge to play until 45 and now is season-to-season according to filmmaker Gotham Chopra?

If the communication lines were wide open and working, wouldn't Brady's future plans have been more defined rather than now seeming up in the air? If Brady was feeling ambivalent and the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo anyway, that would seem . . . risky.

Hell, if communication lines were open and working, Josh McDaniels wouldn't have had to wait until after the Super Bowl when he had his bags packed for Indy before finding out the Patriots really, really wanted him to stick around.

You can't blame Kraft for trying to put the best possible spin on things.

And you have to give him credit for his wandering Malcolm Butler-related candor: "We in New England are privileged to have, I believe, the greatest coach in the history of coaching. We're involved in a number of businesses in our family . . . and we try to encourage to have good managers and we want them to be bold, we want them to take risks. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't.

"I have faith in Bill as a coach that I don't think there is anyone who has the football knowledge and expertise combined with understanding personnel . . . He's done pretty well for us over the last 18 years. So, as a fan, I can question some of the moves. As someone who is privileged to be owner of this team, I encourage him to keep going with his instincts and doing what he thinks is right. There is no doubt in my mind, even if he made an error -- and this is true with any of our managers -- that if they're doing it for the right reason, then I support it 100 percent. I've never had one instance in the 18 years where Bill hasn't done what he believes is in the best interest of our team to help us win games."

 

Kraft is essentially saying he hated the move too, it didn't work out, but he hasn't lost any faith in Belichick as a result of it. Again, though, we have to parse all the words to get through to what the point really is.

But these few days in Orlando will stand as our one swing at the piñata. From here on out, I expect a lot of "We addressed that already . . . " replies to any of the still-lingering issues.

So what now? Now . . . we wait.