If Bill Belichick keeps his job, it won’t be because New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is unwilling to fire him. At least that’s what NFL writer Jeff Howe claimed in an article yesterday on The Athletic. Howe states that anyone who disagrees with this assessment is wrong. But is this true?
The reasons not to fire Bill Belichick are plenty. Reasons were recently given on this very site about why Belichick should keep his job (“Give Bill Belichick a Break“). But whether reporters or fans or others believe Bill Belichick should be replaced, those opinions do not matter. Only one opinion matters, and it belongs to Robert Kraft.
Things are not good for the Patriots. This is not a newsflash for anyone. The losses are piling up and so are injuries. New England’s roster tasked with turning things around looks incapable of doing so. To date, the additions of offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm have made no positive difference in either performance or results from a year ago. In fact, things have regressed. And Patriots Nation doesn’t have Matt Patricia to kick around anymore.
I've seen Patriot fans talking about Matt Patricia being owned an apology, reminiscing about the Cam Newton era and wishing they had Jakobi Meyers back…. Boy we're in hell right now lmaooooo
— Video from: @TSV__1 (@TSV__1) October 10, 2023
The New England Patriots are not in a position to compete, and they are not going to throw in the towel. The coaches and players cannot afford to tank even if everyone agreed it was a great idea. So what is Robert Kraft hoping for out of this season? He is too smart to believe the Patriots are Super Bowl contenders. Kraft is also too proud to sit through his team finishing 1-16 in 2023. With 12 games still to play, sneaking into the playoffs and scoring an upset win is likely still the goal, regardless of how realistic it may be.
So, if the New England Patriots fail to live up to Robert Kraft’s expectations there would be cause for termination. But “should” and “would” are very different discussions. And in Jeff Howe’s article about Kraft’s willingness to fire Bill Belichick, there are no quotes attributed to Kraft. There are not even the dreaded anonymous sources or “someone close to the New England Patriots owner” offering any evidence of Howe’s claim. As a result, there is no way to disprove Jeff Howe’s theory. If Robert Kraft does end up firing Bill Belichick, Howe told everyone it would happen. If Belichick is not fired, there was some change of heart from Kraft to give him another chance.
None of this is to attack the writer. Before going national with The Athletic, Jeff Howe covered the New England Patriots in Boston for over a decade and did an excellent job. He is both respected and well connected. It is the reason Howe’s article got so many people talking. But based on the lack of evidence provided to support the claim, it appears readers are just supposed to take Jeff Howe’s word for his headline conclusion.
What is known is that Robert Kraft was a longtime fan of the New England Patriots before he was the owner. If his reaction to the current state of his team is like that of the fanbase, Kraft is frustrated. The downfall of the team could also affect Robert Kraft’s legacy. He was the man wise enough to trust putting his franchise in the hands of Bill Belichick. He also needs to know the appropriate time to take the franchise back. Will that be five years or less after winning a sixth Super Bowl title?
Jeff Howe could be right and those believing Robert Kraft wouldn’t fire Bill Belichick could be wrong. But a termination certainly will not happen during this season. Contrary to the Howe’s assertion, Kraft could believe giving Belichick the opportunity to finish on his own terms and make NFL history are worth letting him stay around.
Could the Patriots owner decide to cut the cord on his head coach of 24 NFL seasons following this season? Based on public sentiment, Robert Kraft wouldn’t be bashed for laying off his legendary coach. Barring an improbable turnaround to the New England Patriots 2023 campaign, the voices wanted to move on from Bill Belichick will just continue to get louder. But despite a warning from Jeff Howe, Robert Kraft actually firing Bill Belichick at any point would still be shocking.