By New addition Jim Hackett:
As NFL free agency continues to draw headlines and make waves across the league, it remains
business as usual in these parts surrounding your New England Patriots.
Have coupon will travel; to the bargain aisle…
Value. Value. Value. No matter the outcome the season prior. No matter the amount of cap
space. No matter the unmet needs or the available opportunity to meet them; it’s just business
as usual for Belichick and his approach to building the 2023 Patriots.
Business as usual, despite unmet needs. That’s what I keep coming back to. Belichick’s formula
for team building surely worked to a standard and level never attained in NFL history for 18
years or so, that’s undebatable. Having Tom Brady for 20 years at a relative discount will
certainly help you attain such status. To meet the needs of this moment in the NFL however
and change with the evolving times and trends in the league, this is something he simply
doesn’t seem able or willing to do.
Able or willing? That is the question.
Is Belichick unwilling to change or unable to move off his own rigid process? Or, has Mr. Kraft
given him a strict budget and framework to build within, that makes him truly unable to go all
in? Questions of where to point the blame have surfaced of late from the usual media suspects.
Is the problem Kraft or Belichick? About two weeks ago when NFL Free Agency kicked off, that
narrative surrounding the Pats venerable owner and Hall of Fame coach got me thinking of a
comparison. One that brought back a very unhappy and disenfranchising Boston sports
Kraft & Belichick reminded me of the once polarizing, frustrating and maddening dynamic
between longtime Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and his equally longtime General
Manager Harry Sinden. That negative paradigm of missed opportunities went on for decades.
So many years of ‘oh-so-close’ and talented Bruins teams, led by beloved Hall of Fame players
like Ray Bourque and Cam Neely, were never boosted quite enough by the front office to win
the cup. This went on for nearly half of my lifetime.
Quite the 30+ year sucker punch to the face from my dead horse rolodex huh?
The comparison however is legitimate, particularly while people are questioning which office in
Foxboro the problems are stemming from. Like the public finger-pointing at the Bruins at the
height of their frugal past, I believe the base of the issue lay mostly in the office of the General
Manager. Once upon a time, the finger-pointing was rightfully at Harry and now it’s on Bill.
Interestingly in the twilight of their careers, they have become one in the same.
Regarding the owners, neither are blameless, particularly with Jacobs. However, in both cases,
the grooming and nurturing of their fiscally conservative ownership ways were born of the
successful gameplans of their equally risk averse GM’s.
I worked at the Garden (then The FleetCenter during that time) and can tell you with some
modest inside knowledge, most of the Bruins unwillingness to go that extra mile, came from
Harry's chair not the owners office in Buffalo.
It’s true that owners must approve the biggest decisions with their final stamp. They may want
input or minimally, a solid rationale when offers for the biggest contracts are in play. However,
the nature of the GM and the roadmap he uses to guide the decisions made are where the
biggest slice of the proverbial blame pie lay. It was true with Harry and it’s no less true with
Belichick. Moreover, in the case of Belichick, look at the track record he gets to draw off of. It’s
tough to discredit the success he’s had and I’m not sure that even if Kraft the elder wanted to,
that he has the stomach to do so.
Jonathan Kraft? Maybe. If you’re a Patriots fan, you better hope he does, otherwise, it’ll just be
business as usual in New England all over again. Remember, things didn’t change for the Bruins
until Sinden retired and his protégé Mike O’Connell was replaced by Peter Chiararelli. He of
outside eyes and he of a different organizational tree.
I see a similar issue with the current state of the Patriots, as I lived through with the Bruins of
the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s.
In terms of the future for the New England Patriots, I’ll close with this…
Help wanted, outside eyes required. Send resumes to Patriot Place, Foxboro, MA.