Robert Kraft explains decision to part ways with HC Bill Belichick after 24 seasons

By Nick Shook, Around The NFL Writer

An admittedly “very emotional day” required a breather before Patriots owner Robert Kraft was ready to field questions on Thursday regarding the departure of head coach Bill Belichick.

A somber, but grateful tone filled the air as Kraft said goodbye to the greatest coach both the Patriots and the NFL have ever seen. Then, it was time for Kraft to explain the decision to part ways with Belichick after 24 seasons.

The main takeaway was rather simple: The Patriots haven’t been good enough to justify continuing in the same fashion — even if that meant moving on from a legendary coach.

“Well, the last three years have been pretty tough, and I know for our dedicated fans and myself, and (in) life I just learn that things happen,” Kraft said. “Our family is the custodian of this asset: the New England Patriots. We know how important it is to the psyche of the community and what’s gone on here the last three, four years isn’t what we want. We have a responsibility to do what we can to fix it to the best of our ability.”

That responsibility meant seriously considering moving on from Belichick, a six-time Super Bowl champion coach with the Patriots, and ending an era that lasted 24 years and included the rise of the game’s greatest quarterback ever in Tom Brady. As painful as such as decision might have been, Kraft was sure of it, a resolution that came only after he and Belichick spent three days meeting following the conclusion of New England’s worst season this century.

Earlier in the week, Belichick met with the New England media and insinuated that he could be open to relinquishing some personnel control if he returned for the 2024 season. Kraft said such an arrangement was considered, but that he felt that was not the right course for the franchise.

“Yeah, we thought about that,” Kraft said. “But, you know, I’ve had experience running different businesses and trying to develop a team. Think about it, when you have someone like Bill who’s had control over every decision, every coach we hired. The organization reports to him on the draft. How much money we spend, every decision has been his. We’ve always supported him.

“To then take some of that power away and give it to someone else, accountability is important to me. … Where he had the responsibility and someone else takes it, it’s going to set up confusion. … It wouldn’t work, in my opinion.”

Kraft added: “All of us need checks and balances in our life.”

Despite New England’s fall from football glory in recent years, Belichick remains an incredibly valuable asset. His rings — of which he has enough to occupy nearly all 10 fingers — speak for themselves, and in the annual coaching carousel, he could have been a tantalizing trade chip.

Kraft, however, told reporters that he didn’t feel it would be right to trade Belichick, even if the Patriots could have received a haul in return.

“I’m fortunate in our family, our businesses are all private, and so we try to create a culture and develop an environment where people want to stay and stay long term,” Kraft said. “Yeah, I guess, if you look at this as a transaction, he is so valuable and how we could extract something, I didn’t think it was right. I didn’t think it was right for Tom Brady, who gave us 20 years. And I don’t think it’s right for Bill.

“Each of them earned the right to be in the position where they should do what’s right for us, given what they have done for this franchise. Some people might criticize me for not extracting as value, and I understand that. But we just try to do what we think is right for the proper values and ability to operate and try to get people who want to come and feel that we’re going to treat them fairly.”

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