Ever since the Super Bowl LII loss to the Eagles, a lot has gone on with the Patriots and most all of it has been negative.
It’s hard to remember an offseason like this for the franchise in the Bill Belichick era.
Besides Josh McDaniels leaving the Colts at the altar and returning to New England, there’s been constant Rob Gronkowski retirement rumors, lingering questions as to why Malcolm Butler was benched in the Super Bowl, leftover questions about tension within the organization, and also the ominous ending of Tom vs. Time when it comes to Tom Brady’s future.
Both Robert Kraft and Belichick have spoken over the last two days at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, and after digesting their remarks, while things may not be what they once were in Foxboro, it’s by no means time to panic or worry about the state of the organization.
For the first time in a very long time, the fan base loudly criticized a decision Belichick has made (benching Butler in the Super Bowl), with some even going as far as he should lose his job.
Many have wanted an explanation as to why it happened and following Butler, Belichick and even Kraft speaking on the matter, it’s not going to happen.
But, Patriots fans should listen to what Kraft had to say.
"I have faith in Bill as a coach that I don’t think there is anyone who has the football knowledge and expertise combined with understanding personnel -- no one can merge those two worlds [like him],” he said to reporters Monday. “He’s done pretty well for us over the last 18 years. So as a fan, I can question some of the moves. As someone who is privileged to be owner of this team, I encourage him to keep going with his instincts and doing what he thinks is right.
“There is no doubt in my mind, even if he made an error -- and this is true with any of our managers -- that if they’re doing it for the right reason, then I support it 100 percent. I’ve never had one instance in the 18 years where Bill hasn’t done what he believes is in the best interest of our team to help us win games."
There’s no doubt Kraft asked Belichick why he benched the 27-year-old cornerback in the biggest game of the season and with Kraft saying the line of “even if he made an error,” it would seem to say Kraft didn’t fully buy the explanation. But, he came back to 100 percent supporting his coach with the decisions he makes.
It’s time for the Butler-benching talk to go away. Every party involved has been given the opportunity to address it and no definitive reason has been given. Kraft seems at least at peace with it, and so should everyone else.
Another big topic of discussion has been Gronkowski.
The tight end hasn’t 100 percent committed to playing next season and has even sent out cryptic tweets hinting at a move to the WWE. Some believe it’s a ploy at a new contract, but regardless of what it is, Kraft didn’t seem at all worried about potentially not having his All-Pro tight end for 2018.
“I saw him a few weeks ago come into the building after hours,” Kraft said. “I should say one thing. When it comes to Gronk: I’ve met a lot of people in my life. I’ve never met anyone like him. [If the] good Lord let’s us come back as someone, I’ve said it before — he’s the most carefree, happy, upbeat kind of guy.
“I must say, I sort of got excited seeing him vault up on Shaq’s shoulders. For a guy that size, to be able to hop up on a 7-2 [guy], or whatever Shaq is, is pretty cool. So that speaks well about his potential athletic moves for the coming year.”
If there was any real concern over Gronkowski not playing in 2018, Kraft would not be joking about him dancing with Shaq at a club over the weekend.
What about the reported tension within the organization, and the meeting that was scheduled between Brady, Belichick and Kraft? It happened, but it was another thing down-played by Kraft.
“Yes, we’ve had the meeting,” Kraft said. “Just to be clear, we have meetings all the time. We’re not a big bureaucratic organization. We’re a private company. We don’t have boards. We answer to the fans the best we can. We met. And I meet individually with each of them.
“But the thing I don’t know if it’s completely understood that Bill and Tom communicate a lot. They spend a lot of time communicating. The residual of this [Super Bowl] loss was really hard on everyone. But I sort of see that as a high class problem, because I sat in the stands when we were never in the playoffs at home for 20 odd years.”
Let’s not forget about the chatter regarding Belichick not being fully committed to his profession at 65 years old and after everything that happened within the organization in 2017.
Belichick has been the same as he’s always been this offseason by being extremely hands-on at a number of college pro days across the country in the past few weeks.
"I enjoy all the parts of the process, from the game-planning and playing in the big games to evaluating prospects to bringing in the rookies in May that have never played or practiced in the National Football League,” he said to local reporters Sunday night. “You start from scratch with them and seeing them grow along the way to some of the players that we've seen do that -- the Matt Lights, the guys that have been part of the program for a long time.”
Everything seems status-quo there, too.
Without hearing from any of the parties involved since the Super Bowl, it was easy to overreact to everything, but now that we’ve heard from Kraft and Belichick it appears everything is at least somewhat close to normal at One Patriot Place and not cause for any serious concern.
On to 2018 we go.