New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said that “envy and jealousy” played a role in the NFL’s Deflategate sanctions against his team, which made the comeback victory in Super Bowl LI “unequivocally the sweetest” of New England’s five titles.
Kraft spoke Tuesday night at Bloomberg Breakaway, a summit for business leaders in New York. In between talking about his business philosophies and practices, he took time for a dig at the NFL.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2016 regular season and the team lost a draft pick for their roles in the use of underinflated footballs in the AFC title game in January 2015. The team went 14-2 in the 2016 regular season then overcame a 25-point deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
Kraft called the Deflategate violation “nonsense and foolishness.”
“Well, I don’t hold grudges, but I also don’t forget anything,” Kraft said. “Envy and jealousy are incurable diseases. I’m going into my 24th season as an owner. I’m passionate about owning a football team in my hometown.
“If I hadn’t won, I would be so angry at our folks and thinking about what we’d have to do [to win a title]. So, our competitors, I understand how they brought pressure on the league office to be very strong and [lobbied] not to compromise on an issue that was nonsense and foolishness.”
Kraft also praised coach Bill Belichick and Brady, and he lauded the team’s ability to open the season 3-1 without the quarterback. Kraft also called the Patriots’ championship “a great lesson for the millennials on … hard work, perseverance and never giving up.”
He said the Patriots were “very lucky” to have Belichick, whom he hired in 2000.
“When I hired [Belichick], people told me I shouldn’t,” Kraft said. “We had to build a stadium. We needed goodwill from the public. We needed people who interviewed well and were gracious. People sent me tapes of him from Cleveland. In his five years in Cleveland, he had a losing record in four of the five years.
“In life, if you’re picking your life partner or key managers in your company, you can look at the curriculum vitae and look at all these things, but it’s [about] the simpatico of a connection. What is right for me may not be right for you.”
But Kraft said drafting Brady in 2000, whom he called “a special human being,” also changed the team.
“Also, by the way, picking up a quarterback with the 199th pick,” Kraft said. “Just think about the draft that just occurred and what went on in the first few rounds. See how people traded so much value just to get up and get a quarterback. And here was a guy who was the last pick in the sixth round.
“And all of these gurus who we spend millions of dollars on scouting and everything … How everybody missed him is just … It’s really amazing.”
Kraft said his business philosophy is simple.
“We try to collect good people, encourage them to take risks and be bold,” he said. “And if they’ve taken risks and it hasn’t worked out right, but they’ve done what’s in the best interest of their company or been very logical, we encourage them to do that.
“Because most people are going to try to play it safe all the time. And then you need your special people who are outside of the box, who do things differently and sometimes whose personalities are quirky, but they have a special talent.”