When Tom Brady met Robert Kraft in 2000, the sixth-round rookie said to the billionaire owner of the Patriots, “I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.” That’s debatable, and the debate could be settled, starting this year.
Three months before using a sixth-round pick to get Brady, they used a first-round pick to get coach Bill Belichick, who had become via contractual ascension the coach of the Jets when Bill Parcells decided to step down. Belichick resigned, and Kraft wanted to hire Belichick. Kraft did.
Here’s some of the press conference from following the trade, which was made 20 years ago tomorrow.
As noted by Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald, the Patriots included a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick in 2001, getting back from the Jets a 2001 fifth-round pick and a 2002 seventh-round selection. The fact that Belichick remains employed as the team’s head coach — the longest current tenure of any coach with the same team other than Sean Payton, who was hired by the Saints six years later — underscores the value of the transaction. Especially with the six Super Bowl wins and the nine Super Bowl appearances in 20 seasons.
But the 20th anniversary of Belichick’s arrival and the 20th anniversary of Brady’s arrival could be the two slices of Wonder bread on a something-on-a-shingle-without-the-shingle sandwich. Brady’s contract expires in March, and if he wants to leave he can. If he does, and for every year that he plays with another team, data points will emerge on the question of whether Brady or Belichick was the best decision the organization has ever made.