Robert Kraft Wanted Tom Brady to Retire with Patriots: 'Everybody Knew That'March 31, 2021
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft didn't want Tom Brady to play for any other team.
Kraft told reporters that "everybody knew" he wanted his former quarterback, who departed to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency in March 2020, to finish his career with the Patriots, though he hinted that there were some things that happened internally that led to the departure, per Jeff Howe of The Athletic.
"I would have loved for him to retire as a Patriot," Kraft said.
Though Kraft did lament the loss of Brady, who went on to win his seventh Super Bowl championship with the Bucs in 2020 after leading the Patriots to six through 20 years with the franchise, he said he didn't regret giving Brady the chance to explore the open market.
"After 20 years, I thought he was entitled to make a decision that was best for him," he said, per Raul Martinez of NBC Boston. "And we gave him the ability to do that."
With New England coming off its worst season in decades, having missed the postseason for the first time since 2008, Kraft also didn't want to draw conclusions about what may have been different for the Patriots in 2020 if Brady was still on the roster, noting that Brady struggled in his final season with the team.
The Patriots finished the 2019 season at 12-4, with a 27-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins rounding out the regular season before a loss to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Wild Card game. Brady finished that season with 4,057 passing yards—his lowest for a 16-game season since 2010—and 29 touchdowns. He missed out on a Pro Bowl selection for the first time in 10 years.
While Brady is set to run it back in Tampa Bay alongside another former Patriot in Rob Gronkowski, who he convinced to come out of retirement for last year's championship run, Kraft gave credit to Cam Newton, who the team re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason.
Kraft noted that Newton's COVID-19 diagnosis was an obstacle he had to overcome in addition to a lack of "proper weapons around him," which is something New England has looked to improve upon with the signings of Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jonnu Smith.