ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Every marriage has its ups and downs. So New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft urged everyone not to read too much into any reported discord in his organization.
Kraft praised Bill Belichick on Monday when asked about some of the unusual decisions the coach made in the Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia.
As for any split among owner, coach and star quarterback, Kraft said he has learned to work with “a strong and powerful coach.”
“The so-called tension gets greater when you lose,” Kraft added.
And with Brady, Kraft noted that the “feeling of a loss is worse than the feeling of a win” in a Super Bowl, except for that first victory.
“I think Tommy is in that category.”
Kraft spoke to media at the NFL owners meetings and was grilled about everything from whether All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski will return for another season (Kraft never really answered, though he said he’d seen Gronkowski at the team facility this offseason) to why cornerback Malcolm Butler, now with the Titans, was benched for the Super Bowl.
Mostly, the questions were about friction in New England. Kraft said he has met with both Belichick and Brady, something he does regularly.
“I have faith in Bill as coach,” Kraft said. “I don’t think there’s anyone (else) who has the football knowledge and expertise and understands personnel and is able to merge those. As someone privileged to own one of these teams, I encourage him to keep going with his instincts.
“This is not an energy firm where you go from A to B to C to D. I think Bill’s structure has been pretty good most of the time and has worked pretty well.”
Kraft admitted he was perplexed that Butler, a Super Bowl hero in the 2015 game, didn’t play against the Eagles. But he acknowledged he was looking at it from a fan’s viewpoint.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if he is doing it for the right reason,” Kraft said of Belichick’s decision, “I support it. I haven’t had one instance where Bill has done any decision that was not in the best interest of the team.”
While noting that Brady had an unparalleled season as a 40-year-old quarterback, including his third career MVP award, Kraft also recognized how difficult the final game of the 2017 season was for Brady.
“You don’t get public with your feelings two weeks after a Super Bowl loss,” he said.
Kraft got emotional when concluding the session by talking about lending the team’s airplane to students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida so they could attend the “March For Our Lives” in Washington on the weekend.
“When they called and asked would you send a plane and help take the wounded kids and their families and kids who couldn’t go on a normal plane, we didn’t hesitate a minute,” Kraft said. “Because think of it, all of you who have kids, think about losing one of your kids. You wake up in the morning and they go to school and don’t come home at night.
“I just thought this is a way for our organization to be able to reach out to those people who are hurting bad. I can’t think of a worse, unnatural thing of losing your child.”
Then Kraft, a donor to the Trump campaign, criticized the legislative process and current environment in the nation’s capital.
“I have a big problem with what’s going on in Washington and the divisiveness,” he said, “and no one’s listening to one another and forgetting where you stand on this issue.”
This article was written by BARRY WILNER, Associated Press writer.