Perry: Robert Kraft sets clear (and lofty) expectations for Patriots


PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Robert Kraft isn't ready to play the waiting game.

The Patriots owner met with local reporters on Tuesday morning at The Breakers resort to discuss the state of his team, its young quarterback, and how long it may take for them to be competing for a Super Bowl.

Kraft believes that his team should be in true contention sooner than its fan base might think.

"I expect it to happen," Kraft said, "as soon as this year."

Patriots Talk: Robert Kraft keeps the heat turned up at NFL owners meetings | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Is that wishful offseason thinking? Overconfidence based on two decades of success at the helm of a franchise propelled by the most productive head coach and quarterback tandem in the history of the league? An ultimatum?

More than anything, Kraft seemed to set the bar high for this year's iteration of the Patriots thanks to a genuine belief in his team's talent level -- on the field and on the sidelines. 

While competitors in the AFC have the Patriots beat when it comes to big-time offseason additions, Kraft clearly believes there are players who were new to the team last year who will improve. And he clearly believes in two individuals who will keep his team moving in the right direction: Bill Belichick and Mac Jones.

"I think these young quarterbacks in [their] second year have usually grown a great deal," Kraft said. "I'm a big fan of Mac Jones. I see how hard he works. He wants everything to go right. He puts the time and energy (in), and his personality is a team guy. We have a chance.

"Without a good coach and a good quarterback no matter how good the other players are, I don’t think you can win consistently. I believe we have both an outstanding coach and a good young prospect at quarterback."

Kraft would acknowledge that Bill Belichick is doing things differently with his coaching staff this year, and the results are to be determined. And he'd admit that what other teams in his conference have done -- oftentimes to build around young quarterbacks -- has been splashier.

But as is his wont, Kraft compared the Patriots to his other businesses. And in those businesses, he explained, he can't be overly concerned with the competition. So long as his house is in order, he'll end up where he wants to be. That's how he feels about his football team. 

Right now, in late March, with the NFL Draft a month away, he believes things are shaping up for them to be contending. And if they aren't, it sounds as though the disappointment in the owner's box at Gillette Stadium will be palpable. 

It's been lingering for a few years now.

"I’m a Patriot fan big time first," Kraft said. "More than anything, it bothers me that we haven’t been able to win a playoff game in the last three years. And I'm happy that we had a -- I think we had a great draft last year, and it made up for what happened in the previous four years or so.

"I look forward to hopefully having a great draft this year. It's the only way you can build your team for long-term and consistently that you have a chance at winning is having a good draft."

That's not how the rest of the league has acted this month.

The Dolphins traded away a haul of picks and a boatload of money to add receiver Tyreek Hill. The Bills signed future Hall-of-Fame pass-rusher Von Miller. The former Kraft employees now running the Raiders have gone out of their way to pull what seemed like anti-Patriots maneuvers, handing over huge sums of money to receiver Davante Adams and defensive end Chandler Jones. The Broncos added Russell Wilson. The Chiefs are on the hunt for a star wideout. 

The Patriots have mostly stood pat, returning staples of the program to provide a measure of leadership and continuity.

Perry: Maintaining a strong leadership group clearly still matters to Belichick

It may not be fair for Kraft or anyone else to assume a leap from Jones, even going into his second year, since oftentimes young quarterback improvements are spurred by talented additions to their offensive huddles. Receiver/running back Ty Montgomery represents the only offensive addition the Patriots have made thus far, and he's not a lock to make the roster. 

But Kraft insisted there's still time for his team to add. The Patriots are willing to spend when necessary, but any additions made this offseason are likely going to have to fit with a conservative approach taken by Belichick when it comes to offseason spending.

"I don't think free agency is over," Kraft said. "I know the big spending... Remember, we have a salary cap so there's only so much we can do in that area. I do think that we have an opportunity to pick people up along the way, right down to the final cuts. That's, to me, when free agency is over.

"I've seen it other years. People get all excited with the headlines now. But in the end, it's what happens throughout the entire year... [Splash signings] are good for the headlines. But the headlines aren't the substance of what's happening."

"In the end, I go back to [2001]. We definitely didn't have the best headlines, the best talent. But we had the best team, and they came together. That taught me a lot. The chemistry of what goes on, and the intellect of the people who come in and have to understand your system.

"Just because a guy has a record over here and then goes to another place, that doesn't ensure success. But we'll see."

Contact Us