Robert Kraft has always been forthright with his wishes that Tom Brady play his entire career with the New England Patriots. However, that desire fell by the wayside last offseason when Brady left the organization in free agency for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While that decision to let Brady walk out the door was heavily scrutinized at the time, it was only put further under the microscope when the 43-year-old quarterback led the Bucs to a Super Bowl LV title while the Patriots went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
A little more than a year later, Kraft was asked about that infamous decision and whether or not he has any feelings of regret.
"Look, I would have loved for him to have retired as a Patriot. Everybody knew that," Kraft told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. "But in life, things just happen in a way that you have to balance a lot of things. After 20 years, I thought he was entitled to make a decision that was, what he thought, was best for him in where he was at. And we gave him the ability to do that. It's like marriage is sometimes. No one knows on the outside everything going on and you try to balance a lot. And, you know, it is what it is."
Kraft did note that the Patriots had the opportunity contract-wise to keep Brady under team control, but felt it wasn't the right thing to do after all he had done for the organization.
"Well, after 20 years with any player -- I'll make this commitment to any player in the future -- anyone who spends 20 years with us and helps us win six Super Bowls we're not going to keep -- look, we could have contract-wise kept him in our camp, but its just not the right thing," said Kraft. "Naturally, we want to win, but who knows what would have happened if he stayed here? You know, look what happened at the end of his last season here."
With Brady now firmly entrenched with the Buccaneers, the Patriots still find themselves looking for a long-term option at quarterback to succeed him. The club does have Cam Newton in the fold after re-signing him to a one-year deal, however, he likely isn't the guy who'll lead the organization for the next decade. That said, Kraft did give Newton credit for his efforts in 2020, despite on-field struggles that may have been exacerbated due to the quarterback getting COVID.
"We all know long term, we have to find a way, either Jarrett Stidham or someone new we bring in," Kraft admitted. "This isn't something where you get algebraic formulas [to solve]. Think of all the personnel wizards who passed for six rounds on Tom Brady in 2000. No one knows what's going to happen. Look, the quarterback is the most important position on the team. We know that. One way or another, we have to get that position solidified."
New England does own the No. 15 overall pick at the 2021 NFL Draft, which could be one of many avenues for the club to find that quarterback of the future.