Whether the Patriots win the Super Bowl or go 0-17 and end up drafting a worthy Tom Brady successor in USC quarterback Caleb Williams, the longtime partnership between 82-year-old New England owner Robert Kraft and his 71-year-old head coach Bill Belichick is going to come to an end sometime in the relatively near future.
Kraft gave up a first-round pick to the New York Jets to get Belichick to New England in 2000 and there’s no arguing that move was a resounding success. With six Super Bowl titles in 23 seasons, the Patriots have been the most dominant team in the NFL and qualified for the postseason 18 times during Belichick’s tenure. (It’s worth noting that all but one of those 18 playoff appearances came when Tom Brady was the quarterback of the Patriots.)
Kraft’s hiring of Belichick — and the subsequent drafting of Brady — changed the direction of New England’s football franchise and helped usher in an unprecedented era of winning for Boston sports. But all good things come to an end and one informed Boston sports reporter believes the uncoupling of Kraft and Belichick is going to be ugly.
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According to Karen Guregian of MassLive, what may ultimately split up Belichick and Kraft in an unseemly matter is the same thing that ends many relationships: a disagreement about money. “During the offseason, the Patriots owner and head coach have taken some subtle, and not so subtle, jabs at each other through the media,” according to Guregian. “Most of it has revolved around cash spending. In his end-of-season session with the local scribes, Bill Belichick made it a point to mention the Patriots were among the lowest cash-spending teams in the league. The implication was that Robert Kraft was cheap.”
It’s an interesting issue as it is largely believed that it was Belichick, not Kraft, who was reticent to give Brady a contract extension that would have kept him in New England and prevent him from going to Tampa Bay to win a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers. As the narrative goes, Belichick said Brady wasn’t worth the money and Kraft believed him. That was an obvious mistake by both parties and both are at fault, but it is Belichick who bears the brunt of the blame publicly. Perhaps bearing that blame is what has led Belichick to question Kraft’s cash-spending policy and, in turn, drawn the owner’s ire.
That ire may have consequences for Belichick, who is 19 victories away from surpassing Don Shula to become the winningest head coach in NFL history, as he will reportedly be on the hot seat unless the Patriots make the playoffs.
“We have chips being pushed continually into the middle of the table by Robert Kraft, whether it be pointing out the playoff losses, pointing out the draft losses or misses, his real irritation that really has never been aired that Tom Brady walked out and won a Super Bowl in Tampa when the Patriots were of a mind that he wasn’t worth going more than year-to-year with,” according to Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. “All of those together have [Kraft] very much going, ‘Bill, what are we doing?’ So, yeah…He’s on watch.”
Whatever happens, Belichick’s watch in New England is going to be over sooner rather than later as he’s already coached far past the age he said he was going to. Don’t be surprised if when Belichick’s watch ends, it ends badly.