PALM BEACH, Fla. — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft expressed frustration with his team’s recent slide, but he has hope for the future led by coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Mac Jones.
“I’m a Patriot fan, big time, first. More than anything, it bothers me that we haven’t been able to win a playoff game in the last three years,” Kraft said Tuesday from the NFL annual meeting.
“After my family, there’s nothing more important to me than the New England Patriots and winning football games. That’s my passion, so whatever I can do — hopefully in a small way to make that happen — I’m there. I’ m not happy that we haven’t won a playoff game in three years. I think about that a lot.”
The Patriots’ last postseason win was their 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
The next season, in 2019, they won the AFC East but lost to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round at home in quarterback Tom Brady’s final game with the franchise.
With Cam Newton at quarterback in 2020, the Patriots finished 7-9 and out of the playoffs. Last season, Jones helped them to a 10-7 record and wild-card berth, but the team was blown out in an embarrassing 47-17 road loss to the Buffalo Bills.
It’s a drought that Kraft and Patriots fans aren’t accustomed to after the team’s dynastic 2001-2018 run that included six Super Bowl championships.
“I think we had a period of two decades that were unbelievable with a salary cap,” he said. “We have to find a way to sustain it and keep it going.”
Kraft pinpointed the draft as one factor for the recent dip, but the Patriots’ selection of Jones in the first round last year (15th overall) — along with others such as defensive tackle Christian Barmore and running back Rhamondre Stevenson — have him optimistic .
“I’m happy that I think we had a great draft last year, and made up for what happened the previous four years or so,” he said. “I look forward to hopefully having a great draft this year. That’s the only way you can build your team for long term and consistently, that you have a chance of winning — is having a good draft.”
Asked about the possibility that it could be a slower process for the Patriots to become a contender, Kraft said: “I’d expect it to happen as soon as this year. I think we’ve made the commitments as an organization. I think we have a lot of talent — some wonderful young men from last year and a couple in the weeds from before.
“These young quarterbacks, the good ones, in the second year have usually grown a great deal. I’m a big fan of Mac Jones. You see how hard he works. He wants everything to go right. He puts the time and energy , and his personality as a team guy.
“So 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. Hopefully, I believe we have both — an outstanding coach and a good young prospect at quarterback.”
The Patriots loaded up in free agency last offseason, spending a then-record $163 million in guaranteed money, according to Roster Management System data.
While other AFC teams have made similarly aggressive moves this offseason, the Patriots haven’t. But Kraft said he still sees avenues for the team to improve.
“I don’t think free agency is over. 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 we have an opportunity to pick people up, right along the way, right down to the final cuts. That’s to me when free agency is over,” he said.
“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.”