Passionate Kraft makes case for deal-making


Passionate Kraft makes case for deal-making

By Tom E. Curran
DALLAS - Robert Kraft has drawn praise over his 17-year tenure as one of the most forward-thinking, influential owners in the NFL. Now, with players and owners in an ugly squabble over how to divide the mountain of revenue the game generates, the Patriots owner seems to be taking it personally. Friday afternoon at the Super Bowl 45 media center in Dallas, Kraft's eyes got glassy when talking about the squabbling that's ongoing. Asked if would take it as a personal failing if accord can't be reached, Kraft said, "I think I will have failed if I can't help get ... I've never seen the health of a business be as bright as this one. I'm involved in a lot of businesses and this is an awesome business. It's a privilege to be able to own an NFL franchise and to have a labor disruption at this point in time of the evolution of the game, it's criminal. It will be sad. It will fall on both sides."And emotional?"It is emotional," he acknowledged."Most businesses you're in, you're fixing problems where there's not a lot of upside. There's tremendous upside. The whole digital media opportunities and what our content can drive and partnering with the right companies. ... We have the essence of a business that can prosper and flourish for the next 15 years if we get this right. And it's not very hard to do."Frustrated would probably be the best way to describe Kraft's mood on Friday. Calling repeatedly for the two sides to get the lawyers away from the table and let the businessmen hammer out an accord, Kraft was pointed in many of his comments. "There's no reason for us to have a lockout, I'll say it again," Kraft stressed. "There's enough elements there that we can do a deal and everyone's going to come out a winner. We've just got to get the lawyers away from the table."With both sides lawyered up to their eyeballs, how pragmatic is it to think that's possible? "Put them in the background," Kraft said. "Lawyers are deal-breakers, not deal-makers. That's what my union experience has shown me. I mean, you need them, you play a good role, but they're all there to show how smart they are and always looking at the downside."Kraft twice raised an instance he thought was evidence of legal-wrangling gone bad. The players, according to Kraft, spent 15 million on a case trying to prove owners were negligent in hammering out the new TV deal and getting provisions to allow the owners to be paid in the event of a stoppage. "They collected 15 million in fees that the players paid, think about that! If it's coming out of your pockets, and I'm managing our lawyers, if they're not adding value, tell them to zip it," said Kraft. "I need them to keep, to protect me from myself, but business people do business deals, not lawyers."The problem is, the union does not trust the owners. That's why they are going to battle so hard in the courts and will never get their lawyers off the front line. In the situation Kraft referenced, the owners were reportedly fined 7 million for doing a deal that hada provision for them to be paid during a work stoppage. To get that provision, they took less from the networks to get that provision. Yet theywere supposed to negotiate in good faith tomaximize revenues for bothowners and players, since players get 60 percent ofthe revenue. "The irony," Kraft said. "I worked very hard with the commissioner to extend these contracts when the financial world was falling apart and we realized the main source of our revenue was these media contracts. We went out ina very difficult environment and were able to conclude extensions of these contracts to protect the players income and the owners income. For them to sue over soemthing like that, it just shows you how out of touch....there are so many things we can do to create new partnership opportunities and grow and we have to get the lawyers away from the table and get business leaders on both sides." Kraft will be in a Saturday negotiating session. What does he plan on saying?
"I'd like to say exactly what I'm saying here," he stated. "From my point of view, how lucky are we to have a business, to be part of a business, we're in today, where the American wants it, where people want to partner with us and they don't want to hear, people don't want to hear about our squabbling And it's criminal if we don't get a deal done. I mean, there's enough business opportunities where the players can make out well, owners can make out well and we can grow the sport. We just gotta sit down and start talking business. It's all legal posturing now.".AOLWebSuite .AOLPicturesFullSizeLink height: 1px; width: 1px; overflow: hidden; .AOLWebSuite a color:blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer .AOLWebSuite a.hsSig cursor: default
Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.