With the recent non signing of Wes Welker, it is becoming more apparent to me that Robert Kraft is indeed the biggest issue with the Patriots. I have actually been saying this for five years now. It seems odd that the Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since Kraft stopped paying his players. Yes, there is a signing here and there ( think Vince Wilfork ) but these signings typically are the exact opposite of what the Patriots front office usually does.
Ever since the Patriots won their three Super Bowls, Kraft has had the fans of New England wrapped around his little finger. No matter what he did, it was all good. He had the stadium sold out every week, and tens of thousands on the waiting list for season tickets. The fans were coming every week, which of course was putting money in his pockets.
Kraft, ever the very shrewd businessman ( and a very smart one ) decided that he no longer wanted to spend money on the team anymore. Since the team was already good, the fans were going to come anyway regardless of what was going on during the game ( as long as they were competitive). Strangely, the team has now gone years without spending to the cap, and to Kraft it doesn't matter, because the money was rolling in.
Over the years, they have let big name players go and brought in "cheaper" talent to replace them, of course saving a ton of money. The team though still did well ( thank goodness for a terrible AFC EAST ) and the fans continued to pile in. They might not anymore.
Kraft has been known to be "cheap" for quite some time, even to his own players. A few years ago, I was talking with a very good friend of now retired player Kevin Faulk. His friend was telling me that Faulk was getting irritated that he wasn't returning punts as often. Faulk at the time was the AFC leader in punt return average, but yet was not returning punts nearly as much as he should have. One would think, his friend explained, that the team would want their best players on the field at all times. Then why wasn't Faulk returning more punts? He had a clause in his contract that if he led the league in punt return average he would get a pretty hefty bonus. Kraft didn't want to pay that bonus, so Faulk no longer returned punts. That is being cheap, and as far as I am concerned, that is telling me that Kraft cared more about the almight dollar than his team's fortunes. I think that still holds true today.
The Patriots, as I mentioned before, have been under the salary cap for YEARS. The reason, I strongly believe, is because Kraft knows he can get away with it with the fans because of the team's past success. The gate receipts prove it. He doesn't want to pay players because it will cut into his bottom line. Which is make every penny possible.
Many in the past have blamed Bill Belichick for various signings and releases. After all, he is the General Manager. Sure he should take some blame, but how many of these personnel moves involve Kraft? I would bet just about every single one of them. I find it amazingly hard to believe that Belichick does not want to put the BEST players on the field at all times. I am sure he has a system and a strategy, but putting third and fourth tier talent on the field when the team has millions of dollars to spend cannot POSSIBLY be in his best interest. Is that really what he wants to do, or is Kraft putting a stop to spending any money? I am willing to bet it is the latter.
The Patriots are one of the most profitable franchises in the league, and probably all of sport. New England has the second highest ticket prices in the league ( and likely highest concessions too ) yet they are consistently under the salary cap. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Since the Patriots are so profitable, it would be pretty safe to assume that they give a lot to charity. That would be a very poor assumption indeed. The Krafts give as LITTLE as possible to charity. Yes, they do give and have various foundations, but as a whole they barely give anything considering their net worth. People think they give a ton because they are the Krafts. Those people would be wrong.
When the Patriots make poor personnel decisions ( and there are a lot ) most fans look to Bill Belichick for answers. As they should. But I think it is about time they start looking at the top, and they should do it real soon.