By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Robert Kraft has lived through the dark days of the Patriots franchise. He has absolutely no intention of experiencing them ever again.READ MORE: 'Damn Right': Tom Brady's Father Says QB Feels Vindicated By Post-Patriots Success
The Patriots owner spoke to the New England media on Wednesday, and he spoke about the disappointment he felt while watching his team finish 7-9 last season.
“In the 34 years before we owned the team, do you know how many home playoff games there were?” Kraft asked rhetorically. “One. And do you know how many we’ve had since we’ve owned the team the last 27 years? Twenty-seven. And we went 23-4. And in the previous 34 years, they were 0-1. So when you say how did I feel, well, I’m not going to use the word, but it was horrible.”
Kraft added that “the bottom line here is winning. That’s what this business is. And when we don’t, it’s not a good feeling.”
After an uncharacteristically active free agency period, the 79-year-old was optimistic for the 2021 season. Still, he was careful to not make any promises or guarantees about how the team will fare once the games actually begin.
Of course, the actual potential of the 2021 team will rely heavily on the performance of the quarterback. And after Cam Newton was an effective rusher but a subpar passer in 2020, there’s some reasonable skepticism about the ceiling for the ’21 team.
For Kraft, though, if Bill Belichick rolls into the season with Newton under center, that will be enough of an endorsement in the QB to satisfy the owner.
“Well, look, Cam is a terrific guy. I really enjoyed getting to know him last year,” Kraft said. “I’ll tell you this: players on the team in the locker room really love the guy. So in the end, I trust Coach Belichick’s ability to build a team and put the right players in the best position to succeed. Over the last couple of decades, he’s done OK.”READ MORE: Patriots Special Teams Coach Cam Achord Explains Everything You Never Knew About Kicking
As he’s stated numerous times before, Kraft said then when operating any of his businesses, he likes to give his best managers free rein to operate.
“When I’m privileged to have good managers all over the world,” he said, “we give those people autonomy, and we let them do their thing.”
Thus far, it looks like that will mean a Cam Newton-Jarrett Stidham tandem in 2021. Kraft noted that Newton didn’t exactly have the best offensive talent surrounding him last year. Testing positive for COVID-19 and missing the Week 4 game in Kansas City likewise derailed some positive momentum.
“I think in fairness to Cam, I’m not sure he had the proper weapons around him last year. And then he got COVID, and there were a lot of things that happened,” Kraft said. “And I really do believe that the Cam getting COVID and what it did to the team, it changed a lot when we were in a good place. Now we’ll have a chance to see.”
Kraft noted that he doesn’t believe Stidham “has ever really gotten a fair shot,” and that “he’s a great young man.”
That being said, Kraft seemed to indicate that nothing at the QB position is set in stone for 2021. Newton is signed to a one-year deal with a low guaranteed salary, Stidham’s spot on the roster certainly can be questioned at this point, and there are still those Jimmy Garoppolo rumors that won’t stop percolating until a resolution is found out in San Francisco.
Yet whether it’s in house or outsourced, Kraft knows the Patriots need to figure out a long-term solution at the most important position in team sports.MORE NEWS: Julian Edelman To Be Honored At Halftime Of Sunday's Patriots-Saints Game At Gillette Stadium
“We have to wait and see what happens, and we still have the draft. So there are a lot of things that can occur,” Kraft said. “Look, the quarterback is the most important position on the team. We know that. He touches the ball over 70 times [per game]. So one way or another, we have to get that position solidified.”