Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft was on WEEI this morning; here is the full text of his talk, including his thoughts on keeping Wes Welker in New England:
Whether he moves past wins as quickly as Bill Belichick and Pats players do:
Well at this stage of where I’m at in my life, I try to enjoy good people, good situations; after my family there’s nothing more important to me than the New England Patriots team, and winning is what we’re about so when we win, I do savor it. We’re not on this planet forever, and we’ve got to make sure we enjoy the special people around us and the special events that happen in our life and savor them. So it’s Bill’s job to do that, and his philosophy works pretty well, but I’m pretty proud that since we bought this team, and I remember my sweetheart thought I was nuts, we had the worst won-loss record in the previous five years and now this is our 18th season if you can believe it and I’m pretty proud that we have the best win-loss record in the NFL. So we’re going to continue to enjoy it and hopefully it continues this year.
On who deserves the credit for the Patriots’ selling out every home game since 1994, the year Kraft bought the team:
The fans. The fans. You know, I think when they saw someone who was local, who cared about the team, who sat in the stands, who…I used to go with my four boys to the games but I remember how horrible it was when we had those strikes in the 80s and I used to be going nuts on the weekends [without football] and you know, I’m just really grateful…and I don’t think young people who were born in the early 90s, they have a whole different view of this franchise than I or my sons have but that’s part of the fun of it. Football is just great and it really represents life in so many ways and putting team first and relying on the people next to you – you have to make sure you (trust) those people or good things aren’t going to happen and it’s…I’m really happy we’ve been able to help the franchise evolve into what it is.
On the state of the Patriots:
The state of the Patriots is pretty good. Think about us in our last game – I’m still thinking about that Buffalo game because it’s a game I feel we should have won, but you look at the Dallas game, and you think how good they are, and how we won that game at the end and the team coming together and Tom (Brady) leading a great drive, but the bottom line is: that here we’re going into the bye and we’re 5-1, and you know, it’s the eighth time in franchise history, in our 52 years, that we’re 5-1 and I think having this extra week off at this time is a good thing. It allows some of our guys that are banged up to get it together; we have four new people eligible to play for the team, I know everyone is excited to see Kevin Faulk come back, and I think we’re positioned well, but you know, there’s acts of God that happen along the way in our game because of injuries, you can never truly predict what’s going to happen, but being 5-1 at this point in the season, and also – I think the best part of the last game is that we did come from behind and we did what we had to do, which is what we did for many years and I think a lot of people had questioned whether that was still there, but I think this last victory, in the form they did it, gave the team a great deal of confidence. It’s very important when a team goes off the field that no matter what happens – bad things happen, you get behind – that they always believe they can come back. I sense that feeling might have been a little ambivalent for a little while but after this last game and going into the bye, I think there’s a great deal of confidence, which, you know, that’s encouraging and we’ll see what happens.
On a potential new contract for Wes Welker
He’s – first of all, any guy on our team that I can look at face-to-face, his eyes are at my level or maybe a tad lower, it’s pretty exciting. Now he’s just a special guy. He’s a phenomenon and it’s our hope that he will be someone that will be with us for the rest of his career. You know that we’re a team that’s not about trying to encourage and find people that want the last dollar, and that money is the most important thing then we’ll have trouble trying to get a deal done. And I just want to say this: whether it’s Wes Welker, Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, or any player – when we decide what our limit is of what we can afford to pay a player, it’s not like whatever we don’t pay to that player the Kraft family is putting in our pockets. It’s about trying to build a team and have certain disciplines and know that you need a team of 53 players on your roster. So whatever money we don’t give to Wes Welker is going to go to other players to build a team. But he is pretty special, and you know, he comes from a great family. We couldn’t ask for a better guy. His performance, what he did last year coming back from the injury and now doing what he’s doing, his performance this year is great.
On the challenges of owning a professional sports team (question was tied to the Red Sox’ recent problems):
First of all, I think the Red Sox…they’ve done a pretty good job over the last period and this business brings its special moments and challenges. I go back to our Super Bowl in ’96 where we had a coach who was under contract and the rumor was he had accepted a job in another place, and we’re going to play one of the biggest games and we have people in the media who are supportive of him and I’m sort of a rookie owner and still learning the ropes and…there are challenges all the time in this business. Although Harvard Business School can train you well for a lot of things, you don’t – it’s not straight lines and you have to learn to adjust and do what you need to do to put your team in the best position long-term.
On Bill Belichick and whether there’s a “shelf life” on his coaching the team, as Sox owner John Henry said there was a shelf life for a Sox manager:
Well, we’re privileged to have a coach who’s pretty good and I’d like to try to help him have as long a shelf life as he can have. So much of it is – being an NFL head coach is a grueling job for six months of the year and you need someone who understands what’s involved. It’s hard for the general public – the hours they put in. I’ll speak to him at 11 o’clock at night and (have a message from him at quarter of six in the morning) he’s just about at the stadium. Having stability in this business, when you have a certain modicum of success, it’s hard to maintain, because there are forces pulling it apart and I think it’s ownership’s responsibility to do the best we can to solve it and I think Bill loves coaching and we love having him here and we’re trying to always facilitate to keep his shelf life energetic, fresh and hungry.
On his belief that staying at the top is harder than getting to the top:
The way I say it is, ‘Success is a lot easier to attain than to be able to sustain’ because there are so many forces, when you’re privileged to win, a lot of things happen internally, is it having certain players feel that without them you never would have won, certain coaches, certain people in the front office, certain owners, and it’s great when you win but it’s good for everyone to exercise a little humility and understand it really is a team effort and a lot of things coming together and look at our – in ’08 when we won 18 games, we thought we had something special and we came so close and there were just forces at work that didn’t allow us to win and have that perfect season and believe me, it was a great shock against all of us. Just a few things changing, little things changing – the egos…things would have been a lot different. There’s acts of God and there’s chemistry between people and just the bounce of the ball. I mean, you think of those last few minutes – Asante (Samuel) holds the ball, or (David) Tyree wouldn’t have made the catch, they call Eli (Manning) down, anyway – I’ve learned that you’ve got to just have a steady course and stay that middle zone and not get too high or too low, though I’ll tell you, losing is still a lot worse feeling than winning. We want to do everything we can to put ourselves in the best position to avoid losing.
On “Suck for Luck” and whether he anticipates the league addressing the idea of teams purposely losing games in hopes of being the top overall draft pick and able to select Stanford QB Andrew Luck:
This is an issue that has been brought up many years – I think that’s a very poor philosophy. First of all, Andrew Luck, I know his dad, he ran NFL Europe, he played in the NFL, he’s the AD down at West Virginia, he’s a good man, and so you know that the young man comes from good football gene pool but no one knows. No one knows what’s going to happen and to develop a culture that allows that to happen in your locker room, no…If it’s the last game of the season, you might decide to take chances to learn about some of your players and for the future, but we would never do that. That would be a very poor philosophy because you just never know. So no, I wouldn’t like to be one of those three franchises today and I’m pretty proud of our football organization when you think back to the season where Tommy went down in the first 15 minutes and how we were able to go 11-5, it’s a great credit to our football people and coaching staff.