Question: Did you listen to Bill's 4:30 teleconference?
Robert Kraft: They had it on. We were busy talking with Bill, so I just caught snipets of it.
Q: He talked about initiating this whole thing Tuesday night. Did that surprise you, and why didn't you initiate this whole thing?
Kraft: The answer to the first question is it did surprise me. As a matter of fact, when my assistant came in and said Bill Parcells is on the phone, I said you better give it to HELENA?? and make sure, because I've got a friend who says he's Donald Trump or different names. He said, 'it's really me.' The phone call came in, and I was very delighted to receive it. It was an excellent phone call.
Q: Do you wish you and Parcells could've had that conversation four years earlier?
Kraft: I was really delighted that he called and that he made that opening gesture for two reasons. One is, we were moving on. We saw some excellent candidates, and late yesterday morning we were ready to make an offer. Until he called me Tuesday night, I didn't know that there would be any chance that we would get Bill Belichick. But he opened up the conversation in a way that was top drawer. It allowed us to talk for about 45 minutes, and we reviewed a lot of things. Each of us agreed that if we had it to do over again, we both might have handled a few things differently. Perhaps the New England Patriots, well, maybe they'd be playing down in Atlanta today. It was good to be able to mend the fences. I just say one thing about Bill Parcells, I will forever be grateful to him, and I said that to him in the conversation. I said when we were privileged to buy the team in 1994, Bill had been here for a year, and he brought respectability and stability to this franchise. He gave us a chance to go out and market it and do the things we wanted to do to help us win. I will forever be grateful for that.
Q: What is the status of the front office? Where does Bobby Grier sit? Are there still more hires to be made?
Kraft: I think Bill said it well. This thing happened so fast we only had an opportunity to discuss his situation. I personally have great respect for Bobby Grier. I think he's made great contributions here, and I hope he remains with the organization. That's a discussion for another day and is something that Bill, Bobby and myself will have an opportunity to do.
Q: How about Tom Donahoe?
Kraft: This is about Bill Belichick today, and I'd like to focus on that.
Q: Did you have to be convinced that he was worth a first-round draft pick?
Kraft: We thought that we'd have an opportunity to talk to Bill without any compensation. As I sit here today, I am very excited and thrilled that we have the opportunity to bring Bill into the organization. Until Bill [Parcells] called, I never thought we'd have a chance to do it. As I said before, we were ready to move on. But, I knew that from the last 48 hours discussions with Bill Parcells that, if we wanted Bill Belichick, a number one had to be included. We discussed it internally at about 10 o'clock last night. Well, I didn't want to wake Andy up because I know he goes to bed early, so I called Jonathan and I told him I think I'm going to make a run at this, return Bill Parcell's phone call and see if we can work out a deal. This is what hit me at 10 o'clock last night. I thought back to January of 1994 when we bought the Patriots. We didn't think we had it. It's the same situation. We had no shot and people were trying to move the team. They wouldn't let us in the process, and they let us in right at the end. We paid the highest price ever paid for any franchise anywhere in the world at that time, and a lot of people told me I was nuts. But in my heart I knew I was doing the right thing. I thought about that, and I thought about when we buy a piece of equipment in our plants that is a $10 million press instead of buying the $7 million press when you look out over time. The thing that really got me to call Bill last night was the Robert Edwards situation and the uncertainty we all have with draft picks. Number one, will they make it, and if they do make it, someone like Robert Edwards, who was a similar pick to what we had this year, we thought we had the running back position solved. What happened through an act of God changed things very quickly, and we're still dealing with it now. This is chance to solve our problems with all positions in the organization. It gives me piece of mind that he knows what he's doing. He knows what it takes to win, and that's why we're all in this business. For a number one draft choice, we can bring in a man that I feel certain can do something, rather than having the uncertainty of the draft pick. It wasn't even close when I thought about it like that. That's when I called Bill last night to see if we could do the deal. We were ready to go in another direction and make an offer out today to someone else.
Q: Is the management structure of your team totally unsettled at this point and time, and how long will it take you to settle it?
Kraft: I don't think it's unsettled. Any organization in the world we're living in today is always fluid and tries to improve itself and that value when the opportunity exists. That's the situation we're in now, and whatever can help the New England Patriots have a greater probability of winning, we're going to do that.
Q: Why not make Bill G.M. too?
Kraft: We'll think about that. Thank you for the suggestion.
Q: There have been times over the last three years when this obviously haven't been as much fun. Does this maybe bring it back to where you'd like it to be? Is this like a new beginning?
Kraft: I think that's a nice way to phrase it. The most rewarding things in life are very complex, and you have to go through difficult times to enjoy the good times. A former head coach said to me that this is not a business for sane people. I probably have a better understanding of that. I know that if you persevere and have a vision of what's right and you have a collection of good people around you who can help you get there, then you have a chance to win. Our family is committed to winning. I think Bill Belichick said it well that we have a good nucleus of players here. Our family is willing to commit the capital to do it, and we will continue to do that. I think in the six years we've owned the team I think we've been in the top three or five teams for committed capital. I think you have to do that if you want to win. You just have to get the right group of people to be managing the situation, and I'm really excited about the future of the New England Patriots.
Q: Were you at all deterred knowing the struggles Bill had while he was in Cleveland?
Kraft: My only experience with his experience in Cleveland was going out there and getting beat in the regular season and then getting beat in the first playoff game as an owner in 1994. I think there were a lot of factors going on there that I can't speak about, but I think it made things very difficult for him. I never listen to what other people say. I had the privilege of working with him in 1996. Our team the previous year had gone 6-10. He joined us and he was part of that special group of people that made a big difference and helped us get to the Super Bowl. He's just someone I respect a lot. He is very intelligent. He's very diligent and hard-working. He's a student of the game and he's driven to win. If anything, I think he's a better head coach for having gone through that Cleveland experience. That was one of the pluses in the situation the way I viewed it.
Q: When Bill Parcells called you, did he really say, 'this is Darth Vadar?'
Kraft: He said it's Ghengis Kahn. No, he said it's Bill Parcells. He said to me, 'hey, I'm really glad you took the call. When he said that in that tone of voice, Bill is very charming, as we all know. He's quite a character on the field as well as on the sideline. He is an engaging person. I think the New England Patriots owe him a lot for his service here, and I'm glad we had a chance to repair the fences and move on from here. He wants to do what's in the best interest of the Jets, and we want to do what is in the best interest of the New England Patriots. I think this particular transaction was a win, win for both sides. In the end, those are the best deals.
Q: As a long-time sports fan, are you able to step outside of your role with the team and see how remarkable it has been to watch this whole situation unfold?
Kraft: It's interesting. I was thinking about that driving down here from Boston. It's really amazing, if you think about it. I'm appreciative of all of you who are here today and the interest of all the fans who are out there. Here we are at Super Bowl weekend, and there's a lot of interest in this team. That puts a lot of responsibilities on our family and the organization because we know the kind of sports fans who are here. The fact that we had over 50,000 people here for our last two homes games that meant nothing. We had no chance of making the playoffs. Those are awesome fans. We say thank you for that, and we'll do everything we can to get us in the playoffs. If you make the playoffs, funny things happen. The year we went to the Super Bowl, we got a lot of help from Jacksonville beating Denver in Denver. We had no chance at going to Atlanta this year because we didn't make the so-called tournament.
Q: Was Bill a candidate in 1997, and if not, why not?
Kraft: I was not as smart then as I probably should have been. It's hard to look back because you have to put yourself in a moment at that time. That was a pretty kooky period, if you think about it. We were privileged to go to the Super Bowl. We didn't find out until eight days after what was going to happen. We had to move quickly and there were just so many things that went on that were confusing. That's the past.
Q: Did you ever envision at that time that Bill could possibly become your head coach?
Kraft: I had developed a tremendous respect for Bill right away. I know when I went to see him he was always working. He always had ideas, he was always pushing the organization to think about doing free agents ahead of time. This impacted me a lot. Every recommendation that he made that we did was an excellent recommendation. I'm not going to be specific about it, but it showed me that he knew what was going on. He was always thinking ahead and thinking strategically. Most coaches are caught up in this Sunday and they don't think about the future.
Q: Is the fact that Bill hasn't been named the G.M. more because this all happened so fast or because that role is not going to happen?
Kraft: It is more the former and what he's comfortable with. I think Bill and I both share a common goal. Bill doesn't have a big ego. He wants to see us do whatever it takes to put us in the best position to win. He has expressed that to me. Whether it's draft picks or win and losses, you win as a team and you lose as a team. That's the culture we want around here. That's what we're developing, and I'm excited about our future. I feel terrific about it.
Q: What have you learned over the years to help make you a better owner and help you make better decisions?
Kraft: I think making the decision today is the best example of it. I've never been as comfortable and confident making a decision as I am with this one right here. I think you'll be able to share that enthusiasm with me in the future as you get to know Bill the way I've had the privilege of getting to know him.
Q: Can you explain exactly how everything went down today?
Kraft: As I said, 10 o'clock last night I thought about it. I called Bill close to 11 o'clock. His first question was, 'how did you get my number?' He was Bill as always. I said that would be a discussion for a later time. He actually had given me his number. We talked about the parameters of the deal, and we basically had it there. I didn't know if they really wanted to do it. We suggested that we would talk in the morning. I asked him to send me something in writing, what he thought it was, which he did. He called me at 8:30. He sent me the understanding, and it was basically the way we agreed. I felt good about it. There were some minor language things. We corrected it. He said, 'when I get this signed back from you, I'll give you permission to talk to Bill.' He then informed me that he has talked to Bill Belichick, and told him what was going on and to expect a call from me. He told him to think about making travel plans potentially to come up here if we got it done. I think we got it done around 10 o'clock this morning, or 9:30 or something in that area. I spoke to Bill Belichick. I told him I'd like to talk to him seriously about the position. I wanted him very much, and we had the past experience of going through a similar deal before in 1996. He said, 'I'll get in the car and drive up there.' We met at a secret spot up the road about a half-an-hour. We discussed the details, we shook hands, we drove here and we made this presentation. It's happened pretty fast. I didn't think there was a very high likely hood of this happening. It takes responsible people on both sides who have a sense of trust and commitment to one another to do this kind of thing. Going through a process like this is like going through tough times in a marriage. It really can make a relationship. I think that's what has happened here and I'm really excited about the future of the New England Patriots. Thank you very much.