What story does Kraft-Belichick dinner picture tell?

What story does Kraft-Belichick dinner picture tell?

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.


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.


Georgia the new Rutgers? Contingent of Bulldogs growing in New England

AP Photo

Georgia the new Rutgers? Contingent of Bulldogs growing in New England

FOXBORO -- David Andrews was excited. He just had a hard time showing it.

The Patriots center stayed up long enough to see his team pick at No. 23 in the first round of the NFL Draft, long enough to see his Georgia teammate Isaiah Wynn have his name called.

But the Thursday night prime time event isn't for everyone, and so Andrews wasn't fully conscious by the time the Patriots picked a second Bulldog, Sony Michel, at No. 31.

"I was in bed. My wife stayed up and watched it," Andrews said last week. "I was in bed and I saw Isaiah get drafted, and then I passed out. She came busting in th'.;e room about Sony getting drafted, and at that point, I really didn’t care. I was just trying to get to sleep, but . . . No, I was very happy for them. It was awesome to talk to them. They were here the next day. I didn’t really get to see them, but it’s good to see them around, see some familiar faces"

Suddenly, with five Georgia players on the roster -- Andrews, Wynn, Michel, Malcolm Mitchell and undrafted free agent John Atkins -- they now make up one of the largest contingents of players from one school in Bill Belichick's locker room.


Iowa is right there with Georgia at five players (Aidrian Clayborn, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Riley McCarron, Matt Tobin). Vanderbilt is next on the list with four (Adam Butler, Andrew Jelks, Jordan Matthews, Ralph Webb), even with Rutgers (Devin and Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, Kenny Britt). Arkansas follows closely behind with three (Trey Flowers, Dietrich Wise, Cody Hollister).

If you look at the coaches involved in helping certain groups of players develop, the Patriots connections become even a little more clear.

At Iowa, it's Kirk Ferentz, who served as a Belichick assistant in Cleveland back in the 90s. At Vanderbilt, Belichick thinks highly enough of Derek Mason that he gave Mason and the Vandy coaching staff a behind-the-scenes look at spring workouts in New England last year. At Rutgers, Belichick's relationship with former Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano has been well-documented.

Then there are the coaches who've bounced around a bit and impacted multiple players on the Patriots roster at different spots.

Bret Bielema, who's been helping the Patriots this offseason (and was spotted with Belichick at The Preakness this weekend), coached all three Arkansas products as well as James White during his time at Wisconsin. Bo Pellini has coached three Patriots (Vincent Valentine and Rex Burkhead at Nebraska, Derek Rivers at Youngstown State).

Then there's that Georgia connection. Kirby Smart coached all three Bulldog rookies as well as the two Alabama products on the Patriots roster (Dont'a Hightower, Cyrus Jones) when Smart was coaching defense for the Crimson Tide. Former Georgia coach and current Miami sideline boss Mark Richt recruited all five Georgia players currently on the Patriots roster, and he coached both Miami rookies now in New England (Braxton Berrios, Trent Harris).

Asked why Belichick and the Patriots front office would be so interested in acquiring so many players from the same school, Andrews replied, "That’s a psychology question. Man, I don’t know . . .  

"You know, no, I don’t think there’s really like one thing. I think those are some great guys. They all work really hard. They’ve been great teammates to me, so that’s something you can always respect, and it’s guys like that you love having in your locker room and playing with.


No matter how you look at it, the Georgia connection in New England is as strong as ever.

"Georgia the new Rutgers? Oh, I’m going to have to talk to Dev and Du about that and all those guys," Andrews said with a smile. "We might be now. We’ll have to see."


Johnny Manziel signing with Hamilton of the CFL

Johnny Manziel signing with Hamilton of the CFL

Johnny Manziel won't be in the Patriots' plans at quarterback anytime soon.

The former Browns QB, Heisman winner in 2012 and first-round pick in 2014 announced on Saturday morning that he had decided to sign a contract to play in the CFL in order to "further my football career after a long break."

"I believe this is the best opportunity for me moving forward and I'm eager for what the future holds," Manziel tweeted. 

Manziel also announced that he'll be co-hosting the "Comeback Szn" podcast for Barstool Sports alongside his agent Erik Burkhardt and our buddy, former "Boston Sports Tonight" and "Football Fix" co-host, Kayce Smith.

"It's just a really good fit," Burkhardt said on "Comeback Szn." "Good offense. It's a really good league. It's been around forever, we vetted it well, and at the end of the day, like Johnny said, he wants to play ball."

Manziel, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems, has battled bipolar disorder. He will play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats under head coach June Jones, who has also coached in the NCAA and NFL ranks. Jones served as offensive coordinator of the Falcons (1991-93) before becoming their head coach (1994-96). He was also quarterbacks coach and interim head coach for the Chargers in 1998 before heading to the college ranks. Jones coached at Hawaii then at SMU, where he was the first person to offer Manziel a college scholarship. 

CFL rookie contracts are for two years, meaning the Tiger-Cats will have his rights through the end of the 2019 CFL season. 

Earlier this year, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie reiterated the league's stance that they're not in the business of letting players break their contracts to pursue NFL opportunities.

The Patriots took a look at him this spring, but even if they had interest, the possibility of which we discussed on Quick Slants the Podcast last month, any marriage will have to wait.