If Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft wanted privacy on Tuesday night, they could have easily found it. Instead, the two men dined at Davio’s in Patriot Place. Not in a booth. Not in a private room. At a table in the dining room.
Predictably, they were spotted and photos of the dinner confab were shared on social media.
With everyone blinking in disbelief at news Josh McDaniels was remaining with the Patriots, the import of the public dinner meeting was overlooked.
Both men know the speculation that’s swirled about their relationship over the past few months. There’s always going to be a natural tension with Belichick. Part of his brilliance is being unconventional yet decisive. I wouldn’t ever dispute the appreciation he has for Robert and Jonathan Kraft in allowing him to run the team as he sees fit -- as I’ve heard them say, “He’s earned that right . . . " -- but his interest in explaining every move is minimal and he gives off that vibe. Especially during the season and -- speculating here -- especially during this particular season.
Kraft, meanwhile, owns the business (which he reminded reporters of last week). And while he gives Belichick the latitude to run the football team as he sees fit during the season, he’ll going to have questions and want answers.
I won’t guess what was discussed over the warm and delicious Davio’s spring rolls. Could have been Malcolm Butler sitting for the Super Bowl. Could have been Belichick’s exit strategy in a couple of years. Could have been getting a new rug in the locker room (that thing is dank).
But the fact they met in the open implies they wanted the public to see there is no fissure. Or at least that promised postseason conversations between all Patriots principals -- Kraft, Belichick and Tom Brady -- are underway.
Sources explained to me that Josh McDaniels’ decision to stay was tied entirely to clarity about the direction of the Patriots.
He didn’t know where his future stood with the team. He didn’t know what Belichick’s future plans were. He didn’t know if he was first in line, somewhere in line or in line at all in a possible succession plan. He’d asked for a status report prior to the end of the regular season and felt it was ambiguous. Which is why he decided to move on.
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The unified Kraft-Belichick front that spent Monday and Tuesday convincing McDaniels to stay (and making sure it would be worth it for him to take the heat he’s currently taking) is an excellent sign for the franchise in the wake of a tension-filled, drama-stuffed 2017 season.
The painful loss to the Eagles in a game that was there for the taking is a cut that’s still fresh. Belichick will have to sort through that with his players.
But the image of Kraft and Belichick breaking bread in public tells a story of air being cleared and tension being addressed.