No organization in the NFL has been as successful as the New England Patriots since Robert Kraft bought them in the mid-1990s, and especially after the arrival of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady in 2000. With Belichick and Brady leading the way, the Patriots won six championships.
The last three seasons, however, they struggled to get back into title contention. Their recent lack of playoff success is also not something the owner is feeling good about, and Kraft expressed his frustrations on Tuesday.
“I’m a Patriot fan, big-time, first. And more than anything it bothers me that we haven’t been able to win a playoff game in the last three years,” he said at the NFL’s annual meeting in Palm Beach, FL.
“I’m not happy that we haven’t won a playoff game in three years. I think about that a lot.”
Since winning Super Bowl LIII to cap the 2018 season, the Patriots have not come out on top in a single playoff contest. They went one-and-done in both 2019 and 2021, and failed to qualify for the tournament altogether immediately following Brady’s departure in 2020.
The class of the NFL for two decades, New England has now seemingly been passed by other teams — most prominently its AFC East rivals in Buffalo. It appears as if the gap has only widened so far this offseason.
However, Kraft is not willing to sound the alarm. Quite the opposite, actually.
For one, he is feeling good about the team’s most recent draft class compared to the shortcomings in previous years. He also was quick to set proper expectations when asked about the rebuilding process in the aftermath of Brady’s departure.
“I’d expect [to be in contention] as soon as this year,” Kraft said. “I think we’ve made the commitments as an organization. I think we have a lot of talent. Some wonderful young men from last year, and a couple in the weeds from before. It’s a chance for them to grow and hopefully come together, and the team comes together.
“These young quarterbacks, the good ones, in the second year have usually grown a great deal. I’m a big fan of Mac Jones. You see how hard he works. He wants everything to go right. He puts the time and energy in, and his personality as a team guy. So, we have a chance. Without a good coach and good quarterback, no matter how good the other players are, I don’t think you can win consistently. Hopefully, I believe, we have both — an outstanding coach and a good young prospect at quarterback.”
The Patriots selected Mac Jones in the first round of last year’s draft, and he promptly won the starting position and led the team to a 10-7 record and spot in the postseason tournament. While the Alabama product did have his ups and downs, he also was far and away the top rookie quarterback in all of football in 2021.
All signs are pointing towards him succeeding Brady as New England’s franchise quarterback. While Brady’s shoes are impossible to fill, Kraft is confident that Jones has a good future ahead of him in his own right.
“He’s such a good person, and humble,” he said. “I come in there sometimes on the weekend, or early, and he’s there working out, watching film, just doing things that I wouldn’t believe someone of his background would have that kind of commitment given his past. The guys in the locker room really like him — all the guys. I actually believe he has a little more edge than we’ve seen, but he’s been respectful of coming in as a rookie.
“I’m very high on him and I think the staff did a great job drafting him. We’re lucky to have him for our future, and this will be a good year.”