Robert Kraft details decision to part with ‘greatest coach of all time’

Robert Kraft said he dreamed about an opportunity to own the team from the metal bleachers as a fan in 1971 and figured he had a greater chance to be a starting quarterback.

“Never imagined we would go to the Super Bowl 10 times,” the New England Patriots owner told media members on Thursday afternoon, standing alongside Bill Belichick in a joint press conference to confirm they are going their separate ways.

Kraft called Belichick the “greatest coach of all time.”

He said there was no power struggle despite reports that personnel control was at the root of the divide in the organization. Kraft said he simply came to the conclusion that the past three seasons weren’t good enough. He said he and Belichick weren’t on the same page regarding how to get the Patriots back to contender status, which led to discussions about Belichick leaving New England after 24 seasons.

A Monday meeting with Belichick took place prior to the decision to part, which both parties said was mutual, and embrace change.

Kraft said he will quickly shift toward finding a new coach, with inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo handling the coaching duties to start the offseason.

“We’re looking for someone who can help us get back to the playoffs and win,” Kraft said. “Believe me, after my family, this is one of the most important assets in my life. I promise you I’ll be focused to do the best we can do to put ourselves in the best long-term position to win for many years.”

The Patriots were 4-13 in 2023 after going 8-9 in 2022. Kraft said he knew something “wasn’t right,” but needed to discuss with Belichick whether it was coaching or personnel.

While neither shared the exact conclusion or answer to that question, the end result is Belichick hitting the exits.

Kraft said he might’ve allowed Belichick to have too much power over personnel matters as New England’s Lombardi Trophy collection expanded. But Kraft believed he earned it.

“I don’t think it happened until after the third Super Bowl, he earned it and it worked pretty well most of the time,” Kraft said. “I think it’s good to have checks and balances.”

Belichick plans to coach again and chase Don Shula for the NFL’s all-time wins record, Kraft said.

“The last three years have been pretty tough and isn’t what we want. And we have a responsibility to fix it to the best of our ability,” Kraft said.

In discussions about possibly trading Belichick, Kraft said he felt it wasn’t the right thing to do, harkening back to the same decision made when Tom Brady was allowed to leave in free agency and choose his own destination.

“Given what they’ve done for the franchise, I think they’ve earned that right,” Kraft said.

Belichick and Brady went to nine Super Bowls together, winning six.