ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — In 1996, Robert Kraft, then the new owner of the Patriots, famously overruled Bill Parcells, leading New England to draft Terry Glenn.

That led to Parcells playing footsie with the Jets while preparing New England for the Super Bowl and eventually led to Parcells’ famous line: “If they want you to cook the food, they should let you shop for the groceries.”

Neither guy came out looking great, but it was a public relations hit for Kraft. He hired Pete Carroll, who struggled in three seasons in Foxborough. Kraft is now one of the most powerful owners in all of sports, but he didn’t really rise in stature among his peers until firing Carroll and hiring Bill Belichick in 2000.

Kraft has been an incredibly effective leader of the franchise over that time but he’s mostly let Belichick handle the football decisions. But after one of the most avoidably disappointing seasons of his ownership, ending with Sunday’s loss at Buffalo, Kraft has a potential decision to weigh:

Is it time to meddle again at risk of alienating his notoriously stubborn coach?

The Patriots’ offense was a disaster this year. As has been well-documented, Belichick replaced Josh McDaniels with Matt Patricia (offensive play caller) and Joe Judge (quarterbacks coach). Their performance rivals Bobby Valentine for worst single-year Boston sports debacle. With a better-coordinated offense, this Patriots roster had good enough players to make the playoffs. Instead, they wasted what could have been the last years of Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater and a career year from Matthew Judon.


If Belichick either wants to stick with Judge and Patricia or do something else unconventional like try one of his sons or Charlie Weis running the offense, Kraft needs to step in or else watch his prized franchise slide further and further away from championship contention.

There’s a good chance Belichick won’t need the prodding. He’s chasing Don Shula for career wins and hates losing. It would stand to reason that it’s obvious to him that he needs to make a change on his offensive coaching staff if he wants to get back to winning. Still, it was obvious to pretty much everyone else that hiring Patricia and Judge in those roles was a bad idea to begin with and Belichick still did that. So nothing is certain.

Kraft came into the year with high expectations after some promise last year. In March, he said he expected to be a contender again soon.

“I expect it to happen as soon as this year,” Kraft said. “I think we’ve made the commitments as an organization. I think we have a lot of talent and some wonderful young men from last year. A couple in the weeds from before. There’s a chance for them to grow and hopefully come together, and the team comes together.”

That didn’t happen and won’t happen unless there’s a sizable upgrade in the offensive coaching staff. Kraft doesn’t have to make Belichick fire either Patricia, who could move back to defense, or Judge, who could return to special teams. They’re just not qualified to remain in their current gigs.

Belichick is 70. Kraft must have at least the beginnings of a succession plan in mind already. If Belichick isn’t amenable to change, Kraft might have to be ready to be.

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