With Kraft Set to Decide Belichick’s Fate, More Details About Brady Departure Leak

The Patriots owner and his longtime coach have a meeting set for the NFL's Black Monday

Patriots owner Robert Kraft with Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady in 2017.
Robert Kraft with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady back in the good old days.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty

The last time the Jets beat the Patriots was two days after Christmas in 2015 when Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Eric Decker with a touchdown pass in overtime to get Gang Green the win. By the time the Jets take the field on Sunday at Gillette Stadium to try to break a 15-game losing streak (the NFL’s longest active head-to-head streak) to New England and hand Belichick what could potentially be a going-away loss, it’ll have been 2,933 days since Fitzy and Decker had their moment.

Whatever happens on Sunday, Belichick and New England owner Robert Kraft are set to have a moment of their own the following day, as they have a meeting set on NFL’s Black Monday to discuss the future of the Patriots and whether the 71-year-old coach has a place in it. Mired in his worst season as coach of the Patriots (4-12), Belichick could certainly be coaching his final game in New England on Sunday afternoon, win or lose.

“Robert Kraft has been very disappointed with the way this season has unfolded, naturally, and people that are close to him relay to me that that disappointment has been so extreme to the point that he has strongly considered moving on from Belichick,” according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “But these people also tell me that no decision has been made at this point, and that’s why this final meeting will be so important.”

Not Even Taylor Swift Could Save the Patriots
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Ahead of that Monday meeting, a number of stories have popped up this week detailing what has gone wrong in New England this season and painting the picture of a team that’s falling apart with Belichick unraveling the strings. Given some of the details in the pieces and the way they portray Belichick, it seems like a fairly safe assumption that someone in Kraft’s camp has been talking off the record to get ahead of the potential fallout of putting New England’s longtime coach out to pasture.

In addition to making Belichick look worse, some the details that have leaked out make Kraft look better, or at least attempt to. Among them is some insight into the rationale that Kraft used in 2019 when he agreed to let Brady, who had just won his sixth Super Bowl, sign a contract extension that boosted his pay by $8 million but waived the right of the Patriots to use the franchise tag on him following the season. Kraft’s decision allowed Brady to leave New England and go to Tampa Bay with the Patriots receiving nothing in return.

While it may have been Belichick who pushed Brady out the door, Kraft’s franchise-tag decision opened it for him. Ahead of what could be Belichick’s last game, that decision is being spun. “Kraft’s final ploy to keep together the best coach-quarterback duo in league history was to ensure Brady would have the chance to be a free agent at the end of 2019,” according to The Athletic.

So, the best way to keep Brady in New England was giving him the chance to leave? That doesn’t make sense, does it? “He [Kraft] hoped that would incentivize Belichick to make changes,” The Athletic explains. Treat Brady differently. Make him a bigger part of the operation. Focus on the offense more. But Belichick refused to change.”

Belichick’s refusal in ’19 may wind up costing him his job in 2023 and, if it does, fair enough. Belichick has gone 29-38 (including the playoffs) since Brady left the Patriots and has missed the postseason in three out of four seasons. But the reason why Brady was able to leave the Patriots is because Kraft’s removal of the franchise tag let him, and passing that blame onto Belichick is a bad look — even if it might make firing him look better.

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