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ORLANDO, Fla. — For someone standing still, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft covered a lot of ground Tuesday morning.

Why he promoted de facto GM Eliot Wolf. Possibly drafting a quarterback. Fan frustration. “The Dynasty” docu-series, and “The Dynasty” backlash.

Yet of all the comments Kraft made in his meetup with reporters at the NFL Annual Meeting – including an unexpected shoutout for Calvin Ridley’s wife – the largest leap was this: “My hope and expectations are to make the playoffs.”

Uh, come again?

A 4-13 team saddled with a rookie head coach, a GM they can’t name officially, no starting quarterback and weapons that are more likely to backfire than wound a defense is expected to make the postseason? Did Kraft stop at the mimosa bar on his way over?

Minutes later, the even-keeled owner seemed to straighten himself out. He took off his oft-referenced “fan hat” when speaking to the balance of instilling an urgency while also acting with the required patience of an NFL rebuild.


“We know we have to be patient. Everything is new,” Kraft said . “I think we have 20 new coaches. … I think (front-office executives) Eliot (Wolf) and Matt (Groh) have really good knowledge of our product and what has to be done. I’ve told them, ‘Look, I don’t want to do splashy things just to get attention and get good headlines one day.

“I want us to do the things that are substantive and good for the short term and long term.”

That’s better. Much better.

New Patriots Coach Jerod Mayo wisely reset his own messaging and expectations Monday morning, asking fans for their patience as the Patriots try to “build this the right way.” He again backed away from burning cash, and said while his new leadership has money to spend, they will do so wisely.

New England Patriots Coach Jerod Mayo, center, talks with reporters at the NFL meetings on Monday, stressing that fans should be patient as the team rebuilds. Owner Robert Kraft doubled down on that stance Tuesday. Phelen M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Translation: for your own sake, stop kicking the seat. Don’t ask “are we there yet?” Just buckle up.

This is going to be a long Sunday drive before Sundays count toward contending again in New England.


Because if nothing else, the Patriots’ offseason has proven they’re aiming for 2025 and beyond. This year is about laying a foundation.

Now, go ahead and quibble with the amount of investment made and concrete laid. No objections to those objections here. Zero.

They could have installed a L’Jarius Sneed sunroom, even at the cost of a third-round pick in a trade with Kansas City. That’s a blue-chip player at a premium position, the type the Patriots not only don’t have and should chase, but fits their overlapping short- and long-term visions.

In the meantime, Mike Onwenu, Hunter Henry and Kyle Dugger are back for the dawn of a new era that hasn’t been lit with emerging sunlight, but clouds of gray uncertainty. These clouds cover the Patriots’ roster, front office and coaching staff, all of which are under a time crunch to establish themselves this offseason.

Though Kraft, ever the optimist, sees sunlight shining through.

“I think we’ve actually made some improvements,” he said. “I think we’re getting the system of functioning. … We signed a number of younger players that we had drafted or have been in our system. As a foundation, if you want to win consistently, you have to draft well and then get those players on the second contract. We started to do that this year.”


And if you really want to win, you nail the quarterback position. Kraft, of course, knows this. He also wouldn’t commit to drafting one Tuesday, the start of the NFL’s silly season, when lies flow from the mouths of league coaches, executives and owners as easily as hello and goodbye.

And that’s good. Public leverage and keeping secrets are important. So is messaging. And maybe I’ve spilled too much ink and taken up too much internet space dissecting the Patriots’ messaging at the owners meetings, where Mayo’s growth in that area, and expectation management, has become evident.

But messaging is all we have in late March. Free agency is over. The Patriots aren’t playing games, let alone practicing. They can’t even make a draft pick yet.

What they can do now is prove to their fans they understand where they are – the bottom of the league – and show they’re capable of charting a reliable path out. Slowly but surely, and painfully for some, that plan is coming into focus. It’s a multiyear rebuild ahead.

So any talk of making the playoffs with this talent-starved, quarterback-less roster being molded by new hands is foolhardy. It will lead fans, and perhaps the Patriots, astray. Mayo, Wolf and others have already shared their plan: draft, develop, repeat.

And wait.

Patience will light the way back to the Promised Land.


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