For the first time since ... well ... a long time, a high-ranking member of the Patriots organization stood in front of the media and gave an honest assessment about where the franchise stands after going 9-13 in its last 20 games, including 7-9 in 2020 for the first losing season in 21 years.
That person wasn't thrilled and took ownership. He admitted the team's personnel had fallen off, specifically in the draft, but there was a good plan to turn that around. He didn't like having to spend more than ever in free agency — a sure sign a team is not in a good place — and isn't sure it will work, but we'll all be able to judge it at the end of the day.
No, it wasn't Bill Belichick, who spent most of the last year deflecting pointed questions about the slow downward trajectory of this roster, especially at the quarterback position.
It was Robert Kraft.
If you wondered how he felt watching the decline of his prized possession from Super Bowl champions with Tom Brady at quarterback, to 7-9 and Cam Newton and no apparent plan at QB, you got your answer.
With refreshing honesty, Kraft made it clear that no one at One Patriot Place is resting on their laurels: six Super Bowl titles and hundreds of victories. No one is saying finishing behind the Bills and Dolphins in the AFC East was just one bad season and they're above criticism. No, Kraft made it quite clear that what happened and how it happened is unacceptable and they are intent on making sure it was just a one-year anomaly.
"How did I feel? Well, I’m not going to use the word but it was horrible," Kraft replied after I asked him what he thought of last season and what assurances he's gotten it won't happen again. "After my family, the Patriots are the most important thing in my life. ... It’s like I said when I bought the team – our family is the custodian of a public asset. The bottom line here is winning. That’s what this business is and when we don’t, it’s not a good feeling. ... The bottom line is we want to win and when we don’t, we’re not happy."
With the state of the Patriots' roster, the team had no choice but to spend its way out of a personnel hole like never before, to the tune of $165 million in contract guarantees. Kraft knows this isn't the preferred route to sustainability, something the team prides itself in and should given its sterling record over the previous 20 years.
"What happened here last year was not something to our liking," he said. "We had to make the corrections. In all businesses we’re involved in, we try to take advantage of inefficiencies in the market – in the paper business and anything. We were in a unique cap situation this coming year going forward and it allowed us to try things. We missed, to a certain extent in the draft, so this was our best opportunity.
"I really hope (the spending) makes a difference. I’m really excited about this upcoming season."
Kraft admitted the lack of success in recent drafts set the stage for the spending spree, but he's