By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Over the course of their two decades together, both Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick have likely learned quite a bit about football and business from each other. It’s that deep level of trust and respect that likely allowed the Patriots’ owner to accept the reality that sometimes … it is what it is.READ MORE: Families Separated By COVID Eager To Reunite When US Allows Vaccinated International Travelers
That’s the way that Kraft summed up his feelings when asked if he wishes he could have made things better at the end of Tom Brady’s Patriots career, so that the all-time great wouldn’t have felt the desire to play for another team.
“Well, after 20 years … with any player, I’ll make this commitment to any player in the future: Anyone who spends 20 years with us and helps us win six Super Bowls, we’re not gonna keep — look, we could’ve, contract-wise, kept him in our camp. But it’s just not the right thing,” Kraft said Wednesday when speaking to New England reporters. “Naturally, we want to win. But who knows what would’ve happened if he stayed here? Look what happened at the end of his last season here.”
The Patriots, obviously, struggled at the end of 2019, fizzling with a 5-4 record in the second half of the season and losing their lone playoff game to the Titans. With an underpowered offense and no clear solution on the horizon, Brady decided to leave New England and sign with Tampa Bay, where he immediately led the team to a Super Bowl. At age 43, Brady became the oldest Super Bowl MVP in history, and he threw 40 touchdowns during the season, the second-highest total of his career.
Kraft — as he’s stated multiple times now — indicated that Brady had earned the opportunity to make that decision, given all that he had done for the Patriots organization.
“Well look, I would’ve loved for him to have retired as a Patriot,” Kraft said. “Everybody knew that. But in life, things just happen in a way that you have to balance a lot of things. After 20 years, I thought he was entitled to make a decision that was what he thought was best for him, and where he was at. And we gave him the ability to do that.”READ MORE: 'It's Unethical': Hopkinton Drug Advertises Supply Of Ivermectin, Despite Ineffectiveness Against COVID
Kraft added: “It’s like marriages sometimes. No one knows on the outside everything going on, and you try to balance a lot. You know … It is what it is.”
Clearly, when a franchise cornerstone and unparalleled all-time great leaves, it’s a significant moment in franchise history. Kraft hasn’t shied away from that reality.
But he also wanted to make it as clear as possible that the Patriots’ avalanche of free-agent signings this year has everything to do with the Patriots’ mediocrity last season and nothing to do with Brady’s success in Tampa.
“I mean, look, I love Tom Brady, and he’s great. But he’s moved on. What happened here last year was not something to our liking. And we had to make the corrections,” Kraft said of the team’s 7-9 record.
As for whether Brady’s Super Bowl win “raised the stakes” for the Patriots this offseason, Kraft flatly shot down that assessment.MORE NEWS: Arlington Police Warn Parents About 'Benadryl Challenge' On TikTok
“To be frank, no,” he answered. “This was about doing what’s right for our team.”