The Patriots have won five Super Bowls under Robert Kraft’s ownership. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)
Robert Kraft is one of the most powerful kingmakers in the NFL. But when it comes to making player personnel decisions with the Patriots, he’s seemingly just a smidgen more influential than the dude rocking a Tedy Bruschi jersey in Gillette Stadium’s cheap seats. It’s important to keep that in mind when reviewing the comments he made Monday at the NFL league meetings in Arizona, where he opined on topics ranging from Tom Brady’s longevity to Malcolm Butler’s status with the team.
Last year, Brady said he wants to play football until he’s 45 years old. Kraft expanded that timeline Monday, telling reporters Brady said to him recently he would like to play for another six or seven seasons. With Brady turning 40 in August, that would mean he intends to stand under center until he’s 46 or 47. Though there hasn’t been any drop off in Brady’s game, the notion that he can keep playing at an elite level into his late 40s is preposterous. But he probably still wants to try. Unlike other superstar athletes, such as LeBron James, Brady doesn’t opine on politics and social issues. He appears to want to be defined solely by his sport. It would serve as validation for his rigid lifestyle, which is marketed in the form of $100 pajamas and $200 nutrition manuals.
It would be shocking for Brady to assign himself an artificial end date. His goal of playing for as long as humanly possible isn’t breaking news. The six-seven-year window is arbitrary.
Kraft’s reiteration of Brady’s comments are also irrelevant to Jimmy Garoppolo’s future in New England. Bill Belichick will likely have the final say on when, or if, he makes a quarterback change. Kraft, who appears to be far more sentimental than Belichick, may want Brady to stick around until the end of his career –– even if his play slips a little bit. But history shows that isn’t how Belichick operates.
Openly advocating for a player isn’t in Belichick’s playbook, either, which is why Kraft’s lauding of Darrelle Revis Monday should also be taken lightly. In an interview with the New York Daily News’ Gary Myers, Kraft said he would “love it” if the veteran cornerback returned to the Patriots. Kraft, perhaps aware of how his comments would be interpreted, followed up his Revis adulation by saying he “only speaks for himself.” When Myers asked if there was any contact between the two sides, Kraft said to “ask his boy,” presumably referring to Belichick.
If Kraft expresses his support for a player, it’s a one-day story and doesn’t hinder the organization’s negotiating ability. His comments about “rooting” for Malcolm Butler to play with the Patriots next season is a similar example. Imagine the fallout if Kraft declared the Patriots want to move on from Butler. Their chances of pulling off a sign-and-trade with the Saints, or another club that may sign Butler to an offer sheet, would likely be non-existent.
Kraft also said Monday he hopes Belichick can coach into his 80s. That’s a nice sentiment, but ultimately meaningless. Much like Brady playing quarterback until he’s 47, it just isn’t believable.
When Kraft speaks about football personnel matters, he isn’t providing keen insight. He heaps praise upon his players and organization, hoping to cause minimal distraction. When important league decisions are made, like the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, Kraft is directly involved. But when it comes to his own team, he cedes decision-making power to Belichick. While it makes him a great owner, it also means his cheerleading should be dismissed.