That Robert Kraft waved the white flag was surprising, if not stunning, to a lot of NFL fans around the country, especially those in New England. But for those who know the league, who have been in the league and who have covered the league, Kraft’s decision to not appeal the Patriots’ punishment stemming from the Wells Report wasn’t surprising. In fact, it was predictable.
“Yeah, I expected that,” Sports Illustrated and MMQB.com NFL writer Andrew Brandt said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He took this punishment, he had some emotional reaction to it, and it was really fortuitous for the NFL to have these meetings at this time – because that’s what happens. Everyone focuses on the formal meeting, which started Tuesday. Really, the action is before and around the meetings – side-bar conversations in corridors, hallways, bars, restaurants, where people meet and talk about issues. And I think Robert Kraft and his son, Jonathan, took the temperature of the room, and I think a lot of people kind of looked at him and said, ‘Where are you going with this? What’s the end game?’”
Kraft had two options: appeal to Roger Goodell, which probably wouldn’t have done anything, or go to court, which would have been a nightmare.
“If you think the Wells Report took long – four months – court takes years,” Brandt said. “We could have had Kraft v. Goodell running over the NFL for years. I think people got to him and said, ‘You know, that rebuttal you put out, if that’s your case, that’s not a lot. Maybe it’s right to give up the ship.’”
Kraft and Goodell are known to have an extremely close relationship. That relationship won’t end, but it will likely be very different going forward.
“I know people around the league that refer to Kraft as assistant commissioner, senior commissioner – all those kind of things have been brought up,” Brandt said. “Does this throw a wrench in it? Perhaps. You have that feeling and then you hear stories of them hugging it out at a party Saturday night. I think ultimately, business is business and personal is personal. Kraft is one of the people directly responsible for Goodell having the job and he’s someone he consults with often about decisions. But on this decision, I think Goodell consulted with other owners – and Kraft did too in deciding to give up the fight.”
The fight, yes. The war, no.
“I think Kraft is going to use this for reciprocal advantage, the fact that he caved in,” Brandt said. “I think it’s better for him to hold it over the commissioner and the other owners’ head for a long time – not use it up right away (by appealing Brady’s suspension). These owners need something. They need a stadium-measure approval, a tax approval from other owners, a way to transfer money in and out of the franchise, and at some point down the road, they’re going to use this as political reciprocation for what he just did. That happens.”