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Patriots deny report that Robert Kraft warned Falcons "not to trust" Bill Belichick

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FOXBORO -- Shortly after his 24-year run with the New England Patriots came to an end, Bill Belichick felt confident that he was about to get his next head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons. But a phone call from Robert Kraft may have sunk Belichick's chances.

ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr., Seth Wickersham, and Jeremy Fowler dove into Belichick's failed quest for a new gig this offseason with a lengthy article on Wednesday, and reported that Kraft played a big part in the future Hall of Famer remaining unemployed this offseason. 

After the Patriots moved on from Belichick following a 4-13 season -- which was termed as a mutual parting of the ways -- Belichick interviewed with Atlanta twice. Belichick told Blank that he wasn't seeking total control of the Falcons like he had for 24 seasons in New England, and believed he had done everything right to land the job.

But the Falcons ultimately hired Raheem Morris as head coach, which "blindsided" Belichick. ESPN reported Wednesday that Kraft -- who Blank considers one of his closest friends -- "was a big part" of why Blank decided to pass on Belichick.

Blank spoke with Kraft at least twice by phone about Belichick, and Kraft didn't give a very glowing recommendation for the man who helped bring six Super Bowls to Foxboro.

"But in a conversation with Blank, Kraft delivered a stark assessment of Belichick's character, according to a source who spoke to two people: a close Kraft friend and a longtime Belichick confidant. The source quoted the Belichick source as saying, 'Robert called Arthur to warn him not to trust Bill.' That account was backed up, the source said, by the close Kraft friend," ESPN reported.

Another source told ESPN that Kraft found Belichick to be "extremely difficult and obstinate and kind of stubborn and, in the end, not worthy of his trust. And also very, very, very arrogant." 

Through team spokesperson Stacey James, the Patriots have denied that Kraft said "anything negative" about Belichick to the Falcons. 

"Robert steadfastly denies saying anything negative to Arthur Blank about Bill Belichick after Robert and Bill mutually agreed to part ways," James told ESPN. "In fact, Robert advocated for Bill to get the job."

James added that Kraft had no recollection of criticizing Belichick to Blank, but did acknowledge that Kraft may have voiced his displeasure with the head coach at times during the team's difficult 2023 season.

"It would not surprise me to learn that owners sometimes lament to those close to them when their teams are struggling," James said. "But Robert Kraft never questioned Bill's character or trust when talking with Arthur Blank. Trust is important to Robert. He wouldn't have employed Coach Belichick for the past 24 years if he ever questioned his trust."

Whether he said such things or not, this is another bad look for Kraft this offseason. While most understood -- and even applauded -- the decision to move on from Belichick, the owner has come under fire in the months since. The 10-part docuseries "The Dynasty" on AppleTV+ was supported by the Krafts, and painted Belichick is a fairly negative light throughout. Several former Patriots players have since come out to support Belichick and blast the series.

The 2024 NFL season will be the first time Belichick doesn't have a coaching job in the league since 1975, when he got his start as a special assistant for the Baltimore Colts. 

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