PHOENIX (CBS) – This is Robert Kraft’s team, remember, and some would tell you it is even Robert Kraft’s league. And so in the end, particularly with regard to Bill Belichick, Kraft will be the one to determine right from wrong and good from bad, to sort discretion from impropriety and to simply say whether his coach is guilty of another snow job.
Kraft has a business to run, after all, and the Patriots are something of an heirloom, to be passed down to his children and grandchildren like a sterling silver pocket watch.READ MORE: Still Missing: Family Continues To Look For Hanson Mother Last Seen In 2019
And so for all that the owner of the Patriots said late yesterday upon arrival in their in the same Arizona desert that buried their potentially historic 2007 season, the most newsworthy was this:
“I want to make it clear that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of NFL rules,” Kraft said. “Tom (Brady), Bill and I have been together for 15 years. They are my guys. They are part of my family. And Bill, Tom and I have had many difficult discussions over the years, and I have never known them to lie to me. That is why I am confident in saying what I just said, and it bothers me greatly that their reputations and integrity – and by association that of our team – has been called into question this past week.”
And what he really meant to say, of course, is that it bothers him to have his team’s reputation and integrity called into question again.
And so, without getting into atmospheric conditions, PSI or locker room attendants making pit stops toting a sack filled with footballs, let’s boil this down to the simplest, most important questions about this entire issue from the very beginning: is Kraft himself annoyed by it? Regardless of what he says publicly, does he truly believe his coach? Does he trust Belichick enough, in the wake of a Spygate scandal that permanently damaged and stained his brand, to stand behind him even if we ultimately end up precisely where we are now, standing in a gray area with enough ammunition to wonder whether Belichick and Brady did or whether they didn’t?
Let’s be honest, folks: a year from now, maybe two, maybe four … there will be another accusation. With Belichick, there always is. If Kraft wasn’t smart enough to know that in 2007 – and he likely was – then he is certainly smart enough to know it now. For a man like Kraft, to whom his business and reputation are invaluable, Belichick always has come with certain tradeoffs. Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll always has had more personality and downright human likeability than Belichick ever had, but Belichick is simply a better football coach. And he’s a better coach than most anyone who has ever lived.
For an owner like Kraft, that reality long ago required some kind of reconciliation. With Belichick, especially, Kraft always has taken the bad with the good.READ MORE: 'Project Pop-Up' Matches Open Store Space With New Owners In Newton
The question, of course, is how much is too much.
On this particular matter, from the very beginning, Kraft has found himself in a most unenviable position, for obvious reasons. Among the 32 NFL owners who essentially serve as the league, he has enormous clout and equal responsibility. He is regarded by many as the puppet master who handles Roger Goodell. The NFL has taken a major credibility hit during this 2014 season, to Ray Rice and beyond, and Kraft knows that the league will last far longer than he or Belichick will.
Kraft is a businessman, after all. In the end, Bill Belichick is to him what Logan Mankins was to Belichick: just another fuse in the fuse box. Belichick is bigger than most, more important than most, more powerful than most. But Kraft and the Patriots will continue to function long after Belichick is gone, and many would argue that Jimmy Garoppolo will have more to do with the Patriots’ future success than Belichick (or his successor) will.
And so yesterday – as the Patriots arrived in Arizona for a historic sixth Super Bowl with Brady at the helm – it is indeed noteworthy that Kraft stood behind his coach and his quarterback. Many were beginning to wonder why it hadn’t happened sooner. Maybe Kraft has decided that he truly believes his coach and his quarterback, that this is yet another allegation fraught with pettiness and envy, that there is nothing to fear. Maybe he just wants to temporarily put this to bed so that we all can focus on the game. Kraft didn’t say that Belichick and Brady were absolutely telling the truth so much as he said that he believes them, which is something altogether different.
In the interim, as the NFL told us yesterday, this investigation into the footballs will go on for weeks, maybe longer, which puts Robert Kraft in the same position as most everyone else.
Having said what he has said and believing only what he knows he truly believes, he waits.
And between now and then, there is a game to play.MORE NEWS: FDA Under Growing Pressure To Grant Full Approval For COVID-19 Vaccines