New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft ‘absolutely’ believes Bill Belichick will return as head coach


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft told on Saturday that he “absolutely” believes Bill Belichick will be the team’s head coach in 2018, as speculation has swirled following an ESPN story Friday that detailed friction inside the organization.

The ESPN story detailed “a palpable sense in [Gillette Stadium] that this might be the last year together” for Kraft, Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Kraft disputed part of ESPN’s story that he met with Belichick two weeks before the Oct. 31 trade deadline, and after a meeting that lasted half the day, Belichick was issued a mandate by Kraft to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Kraft told reporter Peter King of TheMMQB, “When you’re lucky enough to have someone exceptional, you let them do their job and you get out of the way. …

“Until Monday at the trade deadline — I believe that was Oct. 30 — the last time I talked to Bill about Jimmy’s situation was in a group with Bill, [club president] Jonathan [Kraft], [director of player personnel] Nick Caserio … a small group of us, I think in June. That is the last time I talked to Bill about it. I would see Nick occasionally and say, ‘Anything going on?’

“I assumed once the season started, we’d talk again at the end of the season about it. The next time I spoke with Bill about it was the Monday before the trade deadline. He called me on that Monday and said he got a deal with San Francisco, Jimmy for a second-round pick and [quarterback] Brian Hoyer. Turns out they had to cut Hoyer and then we got him. But really, this was basically a second-round pick and Brian Hoyer for Jimmy. Bill asked me if I was OK with this. I was really taken aback a little bit. I wanted to think about it. I talked to Jonathan, who was okay with it, and I called Bill back and said, ‘OK.'”

ESPN stands by its reporting.

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