Just before the start of the NFL season Jeff Benedict, a New York Times best selling author, dropped ‘The Dynasty’. A book dedicated to telling the tale of the Patriots 20 year run of unprecedented success.
Benedict was given full access to the team in 2018 and 2019 while also compiling facts and quotes through exhaustive research.
I have since finished the book, and as a casual reader I would highly suggest this book to any casual Patriots fan. I had trouble putting it down at times, even when the chapter topic at hand was the legal battles between the Patriots and NFL.
But today I am here to give you the spark notes version of the book. A quick breakdown of what I felt were the biggest takeaways I had since finishing it.
The Hartford Patriots
This was probably big news during the mid-nineties for our parents but for me this was all new, news. When Bob Kraft officially bought the team, his goal in mind was to build a brand new stadium. Preferably the sooner the better. At first it was suppose to be a domed stadium dubbed as part of a “Megaplex” in downtown Boston. Basically where TD Garden now stands today. But thanks to Massachusetts legislature that fell through.
The second idea was the keep the team in Foxboro but with a new stadium, but again Massachusetts legislature was dragging their feet. Unwilling to shell out public money for a football team that was notorious for not making money.
When that idea snagged, both governors from Rhode Island and Connecticut reached out to Kraft to move the Patriots to their respective states.
Kraft eventually worked with then Connecticut governor John Rowland to move the team to Hartford. Rowland made Kraft a deal he couldn’t refuse, without getting bogged down on the details of the deal, it would have made Kraft money hand over fist. The Pats would have been a top three revenue making team for the 30 year deal of the lease.
Kraft felt compelled that he had to move the Pats to Hartford as much as he didn’t want to do it, and the NFL didn’t want the Patriots to move either. Boston is a better television market than Hartford and the Pats would be invading Jets/Giants territory.
Oddly enough it was our good friend Roger Goodell who was sent on a secret mission to begin back channel discussions at the 11th hour with Massachusetts law makers to try and keep the Patriots in Foxboro.
In Hartford things were not all sunshine and rainbows. The new stadium that was suppose to be done by 2001, was delayed to 2003 or 2004. Kraft was not happy with the delays. He asked the Governor if he could extend a clause in their deal that would allow Kraft and the Patriots to back out of the deal with no legal or financial consequences to follow.
Governor Rowland responded with:
“You see that chair?” Rowland said, pointing across the room. Everyone turned to look. “I’m going to bend over that chair right now,” Rowland continued, glaring at Kraft, “and you can shove anything you want up my ass. But don’t back out of this deal!”
Quite a reasonable and political response I would say.
Well Kraft backed out, gave Massachusetts enough time to put a bill together to keep the Patriots in Foxboro and the rest is history. It’s incredible to think how close we were to the Patriots playing in Hartford, Connecticut instead of Foxboro. Thank God that changed, Connecticut SUCKS.
Still no explanation for how Gillette was originally suppose to be called CMGI Field but whatever. Take what we can get.
I always figured, sure Jonathan Kraft is Bob Kraft’s son, he’s around the team a lot but little did I know how much he actually was invested in the team.
He was the one who wrote Kraft’s famous “We are all Patriots” speech after Super Bowl XXXVI, in a bathroom during the U2 halftime show. That came after he told Bono earlier that week that the Patriots were in fact starting Brady and not Bledsoe.
Most of all he is Robert Kraft’s closest confidant. Any major decision that is made about the team, Jonathan Kraft has at least a say in it.
I would say that whenever the team gets passed down to him, which let’s hope is still not for a long while, but when it does, we will be in good hands.
Tight Knit Family
I kept finding myself fascinated with a consistent theme throughout the book. That the New England Patriots are a tight knit family and that Kraft cares about the perception of his team.
We all know that Belichick is the mastermind at taking disgruntled super stars with supposed character issues and getting them to conform to the ‘Patriot Way’. But that is not without approval from Robert Kraft.
When the Patriots added Corey Dillon, Belichick recognized that Dillon’s outlandish behavior stemmed from his desire to win which was a commodity lacking in Cincinnati.
When the Pats traded for Randy Moss, Kraft had a one on one meeting with him where he told him the Patriots name was his family legacy, and any sort of non-sense wouldn’t be tolerated. Moss completely understood and was fully bought in.
I think as fans since we only see the game on the field and hear about the ins and outs of the business side of things that we forget these are still human beings in a company. Sure guys get tired of playing for Belichick given how demanding he is. But they also love playing for the New England Patriots.
We only see the product on Sunday, what we don’t see is how the organization, at every aspect is run behind the scenes. That gets lost, when players change teams it’s not always about how they fit with that team on paper. But how is the organization ran from top to bottom, is it a culture I will enjoy being in.
Alex Guerrero & Gisele Bunchden
I firmly believe that these two are the reason for the break up of the Brady-chick Dynasty. Not saying that Tom Brady couldn’t grow and mature as a person, but I also believe he had some people in his inner circle talking in his ear.
We learn a little more about what went into the whole Alex Guerrero situation that developed in 2017.
As we all know, Guerrero had his team privileges revoked by Belichick. Guerrero was criticizing the Patriots medical staff openly for how they trained and rehabbed players back from injury.
Guerrero and Brady were also beginning their business together and after the 28-3 comeback against Atlanta Brady had begun to start wanting more recognition from Belichick and began believing for the first time in his career, that in fact he was sort of above the team.
Belichick took away Guerrero’s privileges, thus sort of knocking Brady down a few pegs. But at the same time, Belichick was in a tough spot. Who was this guy to openly critique your team doctors and trainers? If Belichick didn’t put his foot down somewhere all hell would have broken loose.
At the end of the season it was Kraft who was able to reach an agreement between Brady and Belichick about what Guerrero could and could not do.
And of course we get to Gisele. She was pretty outspoken in the Tom vs. Time documentary about how she wanted Brady to be done with playing football. He had told her in 2006 when they met that he was planning on playing for another 10 years. And after realizing the effects of the TB12 method on his career, by the time 2016 rolled around he was aiming for age 45.
Gisele apparently tried to convince him to retire after Super Bowl LI. Saying that with the 28-3 comeback and a fifth ring, he was the GOAT. That there was no more left to prove and his ten year plan had come to an end. Time to go out on top.
And in a meeting with Kraft following the 2017 season Gisele basically spoke for Brady about how he should be recognized and appreciated for how much he had done for the Patriots. She also chastised Belichick for his treatment of Brady, that not only did he never show Brady any approval but he would regularly ear hole his star quarterback.
‘Kraft summoned Brady and his wife Gisele Bündchen to his home for a discussion. Bündchen took up for Brady. After pointing out how much Brady had done for the organization:
She also pointed out how ridiculous it was that after all these years, Belichick still treated Brady like “F—–g Johnny Foxboro.” It was bad enough to never voice approval. It was bullshit to still be dressing down the most accomplished quarterback in league history during team meetings and treating his personal trainer and best friend like some kind of outcast.
When the conversation shifted to the future, Brady and Bündchen indicated it was time for them to make some changes that were in the best interest of their family. Among other things, they were contemplating a change of scenery.’
It’s hard to think arguably the two people closest to Tom Brady did not eventually turn him against Belichick and made him hate the Patriot Way. Brady in the 2000’s was like Belichick, one mind, one purpose, winning. And no amount of wins, accolades or rings was ever enough.
But by the time the second dynasty rolled around Brady still had the competitive fire, but he also wanted to feel appreciated for what he had accomplished, which just isn’t Belichick’s style.
You want to point a finger at the dynasty breaking up, point it at these two. Even Brady knew what kills dynasties but he couldn’t get out of his own way. He admitted this to Jonathan Kraft in 2003 before the Super Bowl.
‘The conversation shifted to how hard it is to win in the NFL over a sustained period of time.
“The problem is quarterbacks,” Brady said. “I’ve looked at it. When quarterbacks get in their thirties and they get married and have kids, you can see how they all decline.”
Kraft hadn’t thought much about that. But Brady’s point made sense. Eventually quarterbacks start to lose some of their competitive drive. Life demands, such as being a father and a husband contribute to that. But so does age.
“Eventually nature takes its course,” Kraft said.
“Well, not with me,” Brady said.’
Benedict stated early in his book that he was going to focus the story on the three pillars that kept the Patriots going for twenty years. Kraft, Brady and Belichick.
Interestingly enough, Belichick badly wanted the Patriots job after Bill Parcells left. Funny enough Kraft always wanted Belichick as well, but at that point in time Belichick’s reputation around the league was that he was a gifted defensive mind. But his dour personality made for a miserable existence as a head coach.
Belichick and his wife at the time met with Kraft for dinner after Parcells left the Patriots. Belichick’s wife basically begged Kraft to make Bill the next head coach.
But after a messy public break up with Parcells hiring Belichick would have been an optics nightmare. So as badly as Kraft wanted Belichick he knew deep down that the timing wasn’t right and went with Pete Carroll instead.
And then of course everything unfolding with the Jets, Parcells steps down, Belichick is the coach for a day before writing down “I resign as HC of the NYJ.” Because the Patriots job was open and he wanted to coach for New England.
Also a fascinating Belichick story was his feud with ESPN and Tom Jackson in 2003. After cutting Lawyer Milloy a week before the season the players were pissed. They then get blown out by Milloy and Buffalo in week one 31-0.
Tom Jackson that night on NFL Primetime says that Belichick had “lost the locker room” and that his players “hate their coach right now.”
The players admitted that they were mad Milloy had bee cut so unceremoniously but mad like you would be at a parent. You eventually get over it and get back to work. But for Jackson to say what he said rallied the team together.
So much so that after they won the Super Bowl over Carolina,
‘Belichick was hounded by reporters seeking interviews, including two different people who approached him from ESPN. He said no to both of them. He hadn’t forgotten what ESPN’s Tom Jackson had said about him back in the first week of the season. But when Chris Berman personally appealed to him, Belichick didn’t want to say no to a friend. The two of them walked across Reliant Field toward ESPN’s stage where Jackson was already on set. As Belichick approached, Jackson extended his hand.
Belichick glared at him and said, “F–k you.”
Jackson walked off and Belichick sat for a one-on-one interview with Berman.’
If you were hoping this book would give us some insight into the Malcolm Butler benching in Super Bowl LII, I am sorry to disappoint you but it does not. In fact really no reason is discovered despite the deep research and interviews that Benedict dives into.
That will probably forever stay a mystery.
What is refreshing is that Belichick is a fan of his team as much as everyone else and has the same reactions and jokes for a tough loss as we would.
Take for instance, this exchange with Kraft after losing the perfect season.
‘Stewing over his team’s loss, Kraft craved an explanation for what went wrong. But he hadn’t seen or heard from Belichick after the Super Bowl. Finally, four days after returning from Arizona, Kraft was in his office with Jonathan late in the afternoon when Belichick walked in, a stoic expression on his face.
“How do you feel?” Kraft said.
“Let’s just say I haven’t gone to the top of any tall buildings since Sunday,” Belichick said.
Kraft looked at him quizzically. “Bill I’m not sure I understand what that means.”
Jonathan filled in the blank. “It means he would jump,” he chimed in.
Personally I appreciated this from Belichick. Usually after a tough loss when someone asks me how I’m feeling my go to is, “Well I haven’t laid face down in traffic yet.” So I am glad Bill takes these losses as hard as we do.
I’ve already said plenty about Brady. This book does a good job without really telling you exactly, where things between he and Belichick began to fall apart. And I already highlighted the real culprits behind the break up, so let’s focus on the man and the Quarterback in this section.
Tom Brady went from the quarterback nobody wanted to the greatest to ever play the position. He owed it to an unrelenting desire to win and be better than he already was.
Take for instance during the 2004 season. The Patriots lost late in a season in which they finished 14-2 to a bad Miami team down in Miami. Stop me if you’ve heard this story before. Brady however threw four interceptions in the game, a bad game in a place he historically doesn’t play well most guys would lean on that fact. Not Brady.
“It was 3:00 a.m., by the time the Patriots landed back in New England and took shuttle buses to Gillette Stadium. Exhausted, sore, and in foul moods, the players stepped into the dark winter air, found their vehicles in the player lot, and motored home. Furious with himself, Brady instead headed into the stadium. In a film room, he spent an hour looking at what he’d done wrong in Miami and another three hours watching film on the Patriots’ upcoming opponent.”
“Brady never made it home on the night after the Dolphins game. As the sun came up on Tuesday morning, he napped briefly at the stadium and was up and ready to go by the time his teammates returned for team meetings later that day.”
That was your quarterback. A bad game and loss happens in the NFL. Usually you’re lucky if it’s only one per season. But not for Tom Brady, he expected to be at the top of his game every single week.
One of the biggest attractions of the book, and what made me buy it on the spot was the in depth detail about Brady’s hand injury leading up to the 2018 AFC Championship game against the Jaguars. Basically the full entire chapter of it is available to read in this article from the New York Post.
That game gets overlooked because it did not lead to a Super Bowl victory. But I’ve argued it might be Brady’s guttiest performance as a Patriot. With a sliced open hand, he led the Pats back from down 10 in the fourth quarter against the best defense in the league that year. It deserves more recognition and especially after reading that, it gets even more from me personally.
And then of course, this book covers the end of Brady’s time in New England and his decision to leave. And in the most 2020 way possible when he went over to Kraft’s house to deliver the news they had to stay six feet apart and couldn’t hug each other as they did so many times to signal the passing of an era.
I wanted to finish on this one because I feel as though this book was basically written from the point of view of Robert Kraft.
While the book focuses plenty of the Belichick and Brady dynamic that changed the NFL for twenty years, it does a lot to actually peel back the curtain into the owners office and talk about what Krafts role in all of this was and it’s actually quite a bit.
We learn about his acquisition of the team, which was actually quite a drawn out process. Kraft puts on a master class in business and how to gain leverage.
At the time when Kraft began thinking about wanting to own the team he noticed that the revenue for the Patriots was split into three separate components. There was the parking lot sales, which actually belonged to the town of Foxboro. Then there was the stadium itself, where money came from ticket sales and sponsorships. And then finally there was the team itself which all in all actually did not make much money.
Kraft began by buying the parking lot. He then after a business mistake by the ownership group at the time bought the stadium. By the time the Sullivan’s wanted to sell the team it was well known that while a new owner would technically own the Patriots, Kraft would be making all of the money.
It eventually led to Kraft owning the team and keeping them in New England. But was a clear lesson that sometimes in business while it’s glamorous to own the company or team the real money making comes from something that’s overlooked.
The book also dives deep into Kraft’s dealings with Bill Parcells. At the time Parcell’s coming to New England would be like if Bill Belichick took over the Cleveland Browns. Now Kraft was not the one who hired Parcells but he appreciated the influence of respect that Parcells gave the franchise.
But things were not all sunshine and rainbows. Parcells had a “my way or the highway” type attitude that would sometimes bump heads with Kraft. Robert Kraft also had a very personal connection to Drew Bledsoe, and Parcells would sometimes berate his franchise quarterback.
We get to see how the Terry Glenn draft saga played out where Kraft basically over ruled Parcells’ decision to draft a defensive lineman and instead went with Glenn. Who Parcells did not exactly welcome with open arms despite his immediate talent and impact.
And from that the decision for Parcells to leave the Patriots and jump ship to the New York Jets. Despite Kraft throwing in his contract that he specifically could not do that. And then the reverse happening a few years later with the negotiation between Parcells and Kraft to trade Belichick from the Jets to the Patriots.
We also get to see what has made Kraft one of the most influential NFL owners ever since he took over the team.
Kraft has been the lead man for the NFL’s television deals. He was instrumental in getting CBS the AFC slate of games every Sunday. And with the Patriots being the team to watch every Sunday for twenty years and now possibly the Chiefs, that has been an incredibly lucrative deal for CBS.
Kraft has been at the forefront for many a NFL issue he has time and time again come to Roger Goodell’s defense when in need. And yes, even though Kraft was very upset about how the league handled Deflate-gate he and Goodell are still friends.
Really any behind closed doors moment explained in this book from the last twenty years has been at Kraft’s house or office with Kraft at dinner or on his plane.
However if you are looking for more info about the Asian Day Spa down in Jupiter, Florida there is not much we don’t already know.
I am not sure we Patriot fans truly understand how lucky we are that someone like this is leading this team.
This was an excellent book full of moments and stories that I did not know about. Or at least did not understand the behind the scenes decision making. There are a few areas where I did not learn anything new or maybe weren’t touched on in as much depth as I expected.
Like I said the Malcolm Butler benching might be a mystery until the end of time. It seems the Seth Wickersham report was nothing but fluff and folly. The book even goes so far as to basically laugh at it for not having any actual sources.
The Jimmy Garoppolo drama was not touched on. Absolutely nothing as to whether or not Brady stormed into Kraft’s office and demanded the trade.
There was nothing from Spygate or Deflate-gate that made me say “wow.” Nothing new from the Aaron Hernandez saga.
But that’s okay, I learned new and different stories that I did not know about.
I felt as though it was a real page turner, I struggled at times to put it down and I am not much of a book reader so that’s saying something.
I suggest buying it if you are a Patriots fan it’s certainly worth the read.
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