Making difficult decisions is one of the things that separate good leaders from great ones, and 22 years ago today Robert Kraft was faced with quite a dilemma. He could choose to continue searching for his next head coach after firing Pete Carroll or he could stand strong in his convictions that Bill Belichick was the right man for the job.
There were many obstacles standing in the way of a Belichick hire, not the least of which was a rather unimpressive stint as the Browns coach that ended just five years earlier. But Belichick was also under contract to be the next coach of the New York Jets, and in order to hire him Kraft had to engage in some acrimonious negotiations with his former coach Bill Parcells. After an ordeal that included Belichick actually being named the head coach of the Jets and then resigning one day later, the League commissioner had to get involved. In the end, Kraft had to agree to surrender the 16th overall pick in the 2000 draft as well as fourth- and seventh-round picks in 2001 in order to get Belichick, a 2001 fifth-rounder and a 2002 seventh-rounder.
When Belichick announced that resignation, he engaged in an awkward press conference that many felt was an indication he was unfit for the job. The press conference complicated things even further for Kraft, who now had to convince New England he would be worth the fuss despite surrendering a first-round pick to do it.
Looking back 22 years later, Belichick has rewarded Kraft for that faith and then some. The Patriots have won six Super Bowl titles while Belichick has racked up records of 284-110 (.721 winning percentage) in the regular season and 30-12 (.714) in the postseason. In those 22 seasons, in addition to the six titles Belichick has delivered nine AFC championships, 17 AFC East crowns and 18 playoff appearances.
During the run the Patriots have alternated between dominant in their best moments and highly relevant even in the worst times. The team has missed the postseason just four times under Belichick, and together with Kraft they have formed one of the league's most successful partnerships.
When Kraft bought the Patriots back in 1994, he stated a very simple goal: "My objective in buying the Patriots is to help bring a championship to New England." By rolling the dice and hiring Bill Belichick, the Patriots were not only able to achieve that, but they also became the model franchise in all of professional sports.
As trades go, that one turned out quite well for the Patriots, 22 years later and counting.