New England Patriots owner sees Super loss as ‘high-class problem,’ not dynasty demise

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft shows off part of his collection of Super Bowl trophies. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

ORLANDO — The beginning of the end — that was the specter ESPN raised in January in an extensive piece suggesting that the New England Patriots’ dynasty could be crumbling because of tension among owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Monday, Kraft didn’t look like an owner whose team was crumbling before his eyes. He didn’t come out and say that he, his coach and MVP sang Kumbaya when they met after the Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia, but he did confirm they met. And he made several references to organizational strength that will disappoint AFC East rivals Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets.

In short: We’re not done yet, Kraft was saying.

“That word ‘tension … ’ ” Kraft said as he pondered how to respond to a question from a reporter. He then contrasted the situation today to when he believes there actually was tension in Foxborough.

“I think about tension,” said Kraft, a part-time Palm Beach resident. “I think about my first year as an owner, and I love Bill Parcells, but he as a coach — the players were walking on eggshells and maybe ownership did as we went down the learning curve with how to get along. And it was a great lesson for me to learn and train and understand how to be a good owner, and at the same time how to work with a very strong and powerful coach.”

As for the tension back then …

“The so-called tension gets greater when you lose,” Kraft said. “We were 10-6 our first year. The second year we were 5-11. We really had tension.”

He said it’s bound to occur in any successful business or marriage, the key being whether all sides can have “a meeting of the minds.”

That meeting did occur among the three most important people in the Pats’ organization.

“We have meetings all the time,” Kraft said. “And we’re not a big, bureaucratic organization. We’re a private company. … We met.”

It sounded like a gathering to share misery of coming up short against the Eagles.

“I think the residual of this loss was hard on everyone,” Kraft said. “But I sort of see that as a high-class problem because I sat in the stands when we never were in the playoffs at home for 20-odd years.”

Although the loss hit Brady hard, Kraft is looking forward to another shot next fall with his MVP.

“If someone had told you 10 years ago that Tom Brady would be quarterbacking a team that would go to seven straight conference championship games and when he’s 40 years old he’d be playing in a Super Bowl and be MVP of the league, how many people would have bought into it?” Kraft said.

“We have a guy quarterbacking our team and then we have players coming in who were 5 or 6 years old who watched him on TV and they’re starry-eyed. So how do you do that? How do you get the chemistry right so that they feel comfortable? So we’ll try to go with the flow and work things around.”

The Patriots have to go all the way back to February 2017 for the last time they hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy. That’s only one Super Bowl ago, except in Patriots years, it seems longer.

“The feeling of losing is worse than the feeling of winning,” Kraft said.

[Miami Dolphins believe tennis-related changes at Hard Rock Stadium will help future Super Bowl bids]

[Former all-pro RB DeMarco Murray to visit Miami Dolphins]

[A farewell to former Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga]

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Robert Kraft: Donating New England Patriots’ plane for D.C. march was easy decision

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks during a visit to the White House and President Donald Trump in 2017. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

ORLANDO — As proud as he is of the NFL franchise he owns, the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft knows there’s something even more valuable in his life: his children.

So when the call went out to Kraft on the need to help send students from Parkland to Washington, D.C., for last weekend’s March for Our Lives, Kraft’s answer came swiftly.

“We didn’t hesitate in a minute,” Kraft said Monday during a break between the NFL meetings. “Because all of you who have kids — think about losing one of your kids. You wake up in the morning, they go to school and they don’t come home at night.”

Kraft, a part-time Palm Beach resident, answered the call from astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was injured in a 2011 by a gunshot. Thus, a plane with the Patriots’ logo was seen leaving a South Florida airport and bound for D.C.

Students and families from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High spearheaded the worldwide rallies on Saturday to demand safer schools. Douglas was the site of a massacre on Feb. 14 that claimed the lives of17 students and faculty members.

“I just thought that this is a way for the organization to be able to reach out to these people who were hurting bad,” Kraft said. “I mean, I can’t think of a worse unnatural thing than losing a child. Think of little kids going to school and seeing bullets in America go over their head. Something’s not right and we’ve got to fix it.”

Outspoken Douglas students, including Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, are leading the call for safer schools.

“Congratulations to these kids for trying to get the attention of this country focused on it,” Kraft said. “And I hope our friends in Washington are smart enough to figure out a way to listen to one another and do something that can be positive.”

Waiting on each seat of the plane was a letter from Kraft with a Patriots cap for the students and their families.

“In the wake of incredible tragedy, we have hurt for you, mourned with you and been inspired by you,” Kraft wrote. “It is an honor for us to now partner with you as you push for progress. Your community is stirring our country towards a better future. That is the true mark of a patriot. Thank you for your leadership and inspiration. Best wishes as you prepare for takeoff on your journey.”

It was signed, “Robert K. Kraft, ‘We are all Patriots’ ”

In Orlando, Kraft criticized politicians who can’t take it upon themselves to compromise with  counterparts on the other side of the aisle.

“I have a big problem with what’s going on in Washington and the divisiveness,” he said.”

Kraft said he has met socially with Gifford and her husband.

“They’re wonderful people,” he said. “Every time I see her and I think how she has been slowed down a little through public service of the country — that’s nuts. How are we going to get good people (to serve)? So we have to have empathy and a sense of concern for all points of view, for all people to be good listeners, and I thought this, in a small way, allowed us to do that.”

Turmoil within New England Patriots? Miami Dolphins can only hope it’s brewing

Are things getting a little heated for Tom Brady and the Patriots as they enter this postseason? (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

For the first time in weeks, the Dolphins could feel a bit like winners Friday, without having even played a game. Problem is, what the football gods giveth, they can easily taketh.

In another month, we’ll know for sure. Around 11 p.m. Feb. 4, one of two things should happen.

The first possibility: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft will put a chokehold on a sterling silver trophy, simultaneously using one digit to thumb their noses at a world that expected them to implode while using a virtual middle finger to salute all those who wish they’d implode.

The second possibility: The sparks created by ESPN on Friday will be a bonfire.

Seth Wickersham, an ESPN senior writer, wrote a piece headlined, “For Kraft, Brady and Belichick, is this the beginning of the end?” Using unnamed sources from more than a dozen sources inside and outside the New England Patriots’ organization, Wickersham paints a picture of “serious disagreements” among the three men that could render their union of unprecedented success unsustainable.

“Now they’re threatening to come undone the only way possible: from within,” Wickersham wrote, going on to say there’s “a palpable sense in the building that this might be the last year together for this group.”

As is often the case with sports dynasties, this one could be done in by egos worthy of a soap opera. Chief among the plot is the recent trade of Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers, one of the few personnel moves made by the Patriots that appears to be a colossal error. Wickersham wrote that Kraft, 76, issued a mandate to Belichick, 65, to trade Garoppolo, and that Belichick responded by sending him to San Francisco for the relative bargain price of a second-round pick.

Garoppolo has gone 5-0 with the lowly 49ers. Meanwhile, Belichick is “furious,” knowing he’d have to start from scratch in 2018, grooming another successor for whenever Brady, 40, retires. (Earlier this season, the Patriots shipped ex-Dwyer High quarterback Jacoby Brissett to Indianapolis, where he played relatively well.)

As Belichick seethed, Kraft and Brady were seen hugging in front of the team, Wickersham wrote.

The story has several other tentacles, many involving Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero, whose access to the training facility was rescinded by Belichick. Guerrero’s continued influence is putting Patriots players in the middle, having to choose between trusting Guerrero’s methods or that of team trainers.

There also are instances cited of criticism and blow-ups among Brady, Belichick and the Patriots’ assistants, several of whom could bolt for promotions elsewhere this offseason.

“If I’m any team looking for a coach, I call the Patriots right now and ask, ‘What do you want for Belichick?’ ” NBC’s Pro Football Talk tweeted.

Why stop at teams already looking for a coach? What organization wouldn’t boot its coach out in a bomb cyclone, ignore Belichick’s rosy personality and hire him in an instant?

So what does all this mean for the Dolphins? At least on the surface, it’s a rare departure from the robotic atmosphere Belichick demands, the type of saga you might expect from (ahem) a few other NFL franchises. But let’s take a deep breath before declaring the AFC East open for business.

This isn’t the first time under these three that there was an uproar. Take 2001, when Belichick was transitioning from Drew Bledsoe to Brady in a manner said to have left Bledsoe “extremely pissed off.” Eight games into the Brady era, The Boston Globe wrote that Brady “has shown obvious decline in the last four games.” How’d that turn out?

Fast-forward nine years. Vegas set the Pats’ over/under win total at 9.5. “New England has the feel of a team on the decline,” The Tampa Tribune wrote. Try 14-2 (but no championship). They’ve won at least a dozen games every year since.

Jump ahead three more years. Even within New England, there was trepidation. The Providence Journal asked, “As the quarterback ages, the question now becomes, can the rest of the team help carry the quarterback for the next several seasons and keep the Patriots among the NFL’s elite?” Blasphemous was The Boston Globe’s line, “For the first time ever, it makes sense to unload him.” (At least that was directed at fantasy owners, not Kraft.)

All of which means there’s no reason for the Dolphins to be checking out which pole from which to raise an AFC East banner a year from now. They finished seven games behind the Patriots. As they’ve been wont to do lately, they saved perhaps their best performance of the season for New England’s visit, in no way resembling the Dolphin team taking the field in the weeks before or after.

Nothing wrong with a chortle from Dolfans today, I suppose, as the Patriots grumble through this blizzard.

Brady’s agent, Don Yee, said in a statement to the Boston Herald that he didn’t know what to say because the charges made off the record. “All I can suggest is don’t believe everything you read,” he said.

On or off the record, if Yee knows them to be false, he should rebut them, which he did not. Doubly so, considering his client, Brady, is accused of helping usher out Garoppolo — who’s also Yee’s client.

Belichick, Kraft and Brady issued a joint statement via the Patriots’ organization criticizing “speculated theories that are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat-out inaccurate. The three of us share a common goal. We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years. It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united.”

That’s what they have to say today. The proof would come if the three of them are scuffing up another Vince Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis next month, and if they’re trying to do it all over again for 2018-19.

Because if they’re not, the East will be open for business.

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