By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The mere concept or thought of Julian Edelman legitimately being considered a possible Hall of Famer has sent a lot of folks off the deep end. It’s a debate that appears to have some legs.
But one similar thought that should have zero opposition is something that I’ve yet to hear this week: Robert Kraft needs to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Like, now. Immediately.
For reference, Kraft is eligible for induction as a “contributor” to the sport. It was an honor bestowed upon fellow owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys two years ago. Jones became just the 14th team owner to earn induction into the Hall, a group that includes Al Davis, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Wellington Mara, and Dan Rooney among the more modern-era inductees.
There’s no doubt that Kraft belongs in that group. For the sake of being thorough, here’s the quickest of quick digests with a look at the Patriots’ franchise history. (Kraft acquired the team in 1994.)
Super Bowls won prior to 1994: 0
Super Bowls won since 1994: 6
Super Bowl appearances prior to 1994: 1
Super Bowl appearances since 1994: 10
Regular-season record, 1960-1993: 221-270-9 (.442 winning percentage)
Regular-season record, 1994-2018: 279-121 (.698 winning percentage)
Playoff record, 1960-1993: 4-6
Playoff record, 1994-2018: 33-14
When Kraft purchased the team, the franchise was known as something between an also-ran and a laughingstock. Under Kraft’s ownership, the Patriots franchise has now experienced a run of unprecedented and unparalleled success.
The Patriots, after Sunday’s win, have taken home six Super Bowls. That is tied for the most in history. All six have come during Kraft’s time as owner.
Since Kraft purchased the team in 1994, the Patriots have reached 10 Super Bowls. The Broncos and Steelers are tied for having the second-most appearances during that time, with four each. That is to say, the Patriots have played in 250 percent more Super Bowls than anybody else since 1994.
The Patriots have played in 10 Super Bowls since Kraft purchased the team; no other franchise has ever played in more than eight Super Bowls ever.
In terms of owners, Kraft is of course at the top of the list when it comes to those 10 Super Bowl appearances. Denver’s Pat Bowlen ranks second with seven, while six ownership groups (Davis, DeBartolo, Packers, Jack Kent Cooke, Clint Murchison, and Joe Robbie) are tied for third with five each.
Only the Rooney family in Pittsburgh has ever won as many Super Bowls as the Patriots under the Kraft ownership. The Steelers won those six Super Bowls between 1974 and 2008 — a 34-year span that was run by multiple members of the Rooney family. The Patriots won their six Super Bowls in just a 17-year span, all of which of course came during Kraft’s ownership tenure.
Kraft has also made up significant ground in terms of postseason success, as his ownership tenure ranks third all time with 33 playoff wins. The publicly owned Green Bay Packers have 34, while the Rooney Family-led Steelers have 36 wins. The Packers have been playing for 100 years, while the Steelers have been playing for 86; Kraft has owned the Patriots for just 25 years.
While Kraft is obviously not in charge of the X’s and O’s of the football operation, the fact that all of this success has come during his ownership is no coincidence. Learning from his experiences with the first two head coaches of his tenure — Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll — Kraft has managed to keep the greatest coach of the era — Bill Belichick — in his employment for 20 seasons. Kraft has also managed to keep Tom Brady — the greatest quarterback of his era, and perhaps of all time — on the team for the same amount of time. That’s not always an easy task for an owner, and the relationship has had its reported ups and downs. But Kraft has managed to smooth over any such issues that have come up, thus ensuring that this run of unfathomable success continues.
And on the note of relationship management, Kraft also received major credit for getting the NFL and NFLPA to resolve their differences back in the 2011 NFL lockout, thus ensuring that the league did not miss any games. Kraft has also been credited with playing a major role in the NFL making billions of dollars from its television contracts.
Additionally, Kraft took a team that was at the time a threat to be moved to St. Louis and he has used it to establish New England and Massachusetts as a rich football market. Previously known as either a baseball, hockey or basketball town, Boston has become far and away a city that is obsessed with football. Whether it’s in terms of general interest or TV ratings, the Patriots generate five times as much attention as the fellow sports teams in town. That is the result, of course, when a team experiences a dynastic run for 20 years.
Kraft also inherited a substandard stadium, and after some deliberation about relocating to Connecticut, ended up doing what nobody thought to be a possible solution. He built a brand new, world-class stadium right in Foxboro. Then he went ahead and built an entire commercial empire surrounding it, transforming a metal-benched eyesore in a dirt parking lot into a wholly legitimate NFL experience.
In terms of accomplishments, there’s not much more any owner could have possibly gotten done than Robert Kraft. Certainly, no owner has. And while the 76-year-old Jerry Jones surely earned his spot in Canton, it’s past due for the 77-year-old Kraft to receive his own honor.