About Jonathan Kraft
Jonathan A. Kraft is an American businessman, the president of the New England Patriots, owner/investor of the New England Revolution, and both president and chief operating officer of The Kraft Group. In 1986, Kraft graduated from Williams College with a bachelor's degree in history. He currently serves on Williams' board of trustees. After working as a consultant at Bain & Company for two years, Kraft earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1990. Since his family's purchase of the team in 1994, Kraft has held the titles of Vice President (1994-1999), Vice Chairman (2000-2005) and President (2005-present), and thus has overseen the management of each department in the organization.
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Aug 1, 2021
Who are the difference-makers all across the organization? APRIL 30, 2021: New England Patriots first-round draft pick, Mac Jones, center, holds up a jersey as he arrives at Gillette Stadium with Patriots owners Robert, left, and Jonathan Kraft, right, in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) PUBLISHED: | UPDATED: August 1, 2021 at 11:10 a.m. Every NFL team undergoes turnover every year, whether it’s player personnel, members of the coaching staff, management types and beyond. An organizational linchpin might be around for quite some time, and then head out the door. When it comes to the Patriots, their biggest difference-maker, Tom Brady, left in free agency. There’s been a lot of shuffling in the ranks ever since, not to mention a ton of money spent on free agents. So who are the team’s biggest difference-makers now? These are today’s 25 most important Patriots, including behind-the-scenes people that hold the organization together. Naturally, future impact and projected value factors in. Like any list of this type, this one is subjective. It’s just one person’s view. At the very least, it provides fodder for debate. So here we go. 1. Mac Jones The Alabama rookie gets the nod here for several reasons. First, in today’s NFL, the quarterback position is the most important on the field. Just looking at the quarterbacks from recent Super Bowls, many among the winners are among the best to have played the sport, be it Tom Brady (7 titles), Peyton Manning (2), Ben Roethlisberger (2), Drew Brees (1) Russell Wilson (1) or Patrick Mahomes (1). Then you have a group that rose to the occasion in the big game, namely Eli Manning (2 titles, 2 MVPs), Nick Foles (MVP) and Joe Flacco (MVP). Bottom line, teams aren’t likely to win without a top-flight quarterback. And, being a first-round pick taken 15th overall, the expectation is for Jones to be that guy for the Patriots. Whenever he’s given the reins, he’s the player in the organization who most represents the future and long-term fate of the team. 2. Bill Belichick While Belichick might have to put up with hearing how Tom Brady was most responsible for the Patriots’ six championships, since Brady left and went on to win another Super Bowl while the Pats flopped, that’s a short-sighted and incomplete view. While Brady deserves a larger slice of the Patriots success pie, Belichick isn’t far behind. He put all the Super Bowl teams together over the course of two decades. He devised the game plans that have taken down so many opposing quarterbacks in big games. While he might not actually play on the field, he still has a big hand in the outcomes of games. He also is the chief roster decision-maker in the organization. So he sits just below the quarterback. 3. Robert Kraft As the team owner and CEO, Kraft provides the cash and funding to make it work. He also was astute enough to go against the grain 21 years ago, and hire Belichick. But getting him wasn’t so simple. He needed to send a first-round pick to the Jets for the right to hire the Hoodie, even though the prevailing view was that he would ultimately regret such a move. As it turns out, the trade for Belichick is one of the moves that’s defined his ownership, and helped build a dynasty. In fact, it’s one of the greatest trades in NFL history. Kraft also allows the people he hires, namely Belichick, to do their jobs without interference, which is so important in the scheme of success for any professional sports team. 4. Cam Newton Mac Jones gets a higher ranking because he represents the future, as well as possibly the present if Newton falters or gets injured. But as the perceived starter, Newton still factors largely toward the success or failure of the 2021 season. How he fares, how much he’s able to improve from last year, will be key to the Patriots being able to get back into the playoff picture, and regain their status as a contending team. Obviously, if he can’t get the job done, Jones will get the nod. But if he’s able to hold off the rookie, he’ll carry their hopes. 5. Josh McDaniels He has to make the offense more Newton-centric, but at the same time, have the unit prepared to change back into a more pocket-passer friendly offense if Jones gets a chance. That’s part of McDaniels’ job description this season, along with incorporating all the new players, and putting the offense in the best position to succeed. In an offense-driven league, the offensive coordinator by definition holds quite a bit of significance in the pecking order. McDaniels also gets paid top dollar to produce a championship offense. 6. Stephon Gilmore Time for a defensive player to show up on the list. More specifically, the shutdown corner. In Belichick’s defense, it’s the most important position. Having a player who is able to nullify the opposing team’s best weapon is vital. And there was no one better at that job than Gilmore in 2019, when he was NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Even turning 31, and coming off a partially torn quad, Gilmore should provide that necessary component assuming his contract situation is ironed out. If not, J.C. Jackson assumes this spot. 7. Devin McCourty He’s a locker room leader, and quarterback of the defensive backfield. While Dont’a Hightower gets everyone set and in position up front, McCourty does the same in the secondary. His work on and off the field, promoting social justice, is another reason he’s so well-respected in the locker room and beyond. He’s the embodiment of the Patriot Way, a walking pillar of the program. 8. Dont’a Hightower His absence last year served to illustrate his importance to the defense. The unit had trouble stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. Hightower provides both run-stopping and pass-rush ability, depending where he lines up. Moreover, he’s the leader of the front seven, and serves as a coach on the field, moving players around depending on what he sees in front of him. His knack for making big-time plays also has him high on this list. 9. David Andrews A center? Yes, a center. With a veteran quarterback still fairly new to the offense, and a rookie learning the offense, Andrews rises up the importance meter. He typically sets the protection up front, and if need be, points out the Mike, or middle linebacker. He also keeps the quarterback safe from bull-rushes up the middle. He’s that valuable cog in the middle of the line. 10. Hunter Henry/Jonnu Smith The tight end duo, aka “Boston TE Party,” earn combo status at No. 10. The Patriots invested $55 million guaranteed on the two combined. They’re expected to help revive the Patriots passing game, along with providing more blocking in the running game. The Pats offense used to revolve around the tight ends. Henry and Smith should help make the unit a position of strength in 2021 and beyond. 11. Matthew Slater Bill Belichick puts a high premium on special-teamers, and Slater is a nine-time Pro Bowl player with the unit. But along with his excellence on the field, Slater has been, and continues to be, a valued locker room presence. With the challenge of having both vaccinated and unvaccinated players, and the league mandating forfeits should a COVID-19 outbreak force, that sets up a natural divide. With leaders like Slater, potential conflicts don’t typically blow up into major problems in the Patriots locker room. 12. Matt Judon Bill Belichick didn’t hand over a four-year deal worth $56 million, with $32 million guaranteed, for Judon to be a wallflower. As one of the top pass-rushers in the league, Judon should provide a significant boost in a problem area for the Patriots. The former Raven should also do a better job setting the edge against the run and prove well worth the investment. 13. Michael Onwenu Looks like the Patriots hit the jackpot with another sixth-round draft choice out of Michigan. Onwenu had a significant impact as a rookie, starting games at three different spots (right tackle, both guard positions). With the Patriots re-establishing themselves as a smash-mouth team, the 6-foot-3, 350-pound offensive lineman stands as an important presence no matter where he lines up. He allowed just 11 quarterback pressures on 486 pass-blocking snaps in 2020. While he’s expected to take over Joe Thuney’s spot at left guard, Onwenu’s versatility gives offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo a proven option should Isaiah Wynn or Trent Brown miss time. 14. Steve Belichick/Jerod Mayo One or both have assumed the duties as de facto defensive coordinators, without the official title. Both could be headed for bigger things. Mayo has already interviewed for a head coaching job. If he doesn’t leave beforehand, he’s likely to be one of the candidates to succeed Bill Belichick. Steve Belichick, meanwhile, has been the primary defensive play-caller on game days. The pair might not get much credit, given the presumption Belichick ultimately calls the shots on defense, but that would be selling them short. 15. Kyle Dugger He’s poised for a breakout sophomore season and figures to be the next leader of the defensive backfield once McCourty retires. The former Division 2 standout is a star on the rise. He enlisted the aid of former Patriots Patrick Chung and Rodney Harrison to help him become a difference-maker and he’s headed in that direction. 16. Jonathan Kraft He’s the team president, and is expected to eventually take over for his father. Currently, he works closely with Robert to represent the Patriots in league matters, serving on multiple NFL owner committees. Since the family’s purchase of the team, he’s also been the backbone behind the rebuilding and re-branding of the franchise. 17. Matt Patricia He’s been attached to Bill Belichick’s hip ever since returning to Foxboro after getting fired as the Lions head coach last November. As for his exact job, that’s a bit of a mystery. He’s simply listed as a “Senior Football Advisor,” but it seems like he’s much more. He was in the team’s war room on draft day. He’s been parked alongside Belichick at practices. And, he signed all of the recent free agent contracts. Some believe he’ll assume an Ernie Adams-type role as Belichick confidante and tactical strategist. Others believe he’s being groomed for a general manager role, perhaps with the Patriots. In either case, Patricia holds some clout. 18. Moses Cabrera He’s served as the team’s head strength & conditioning coach the past six years, and been with the team the past decade. He customizes strength and conditioning programs for each player, which has proved to be a valuable tool. Hours before each game, Cabrera can be found on the field, putting the players through the paces to prep their bodies for what lies ahead. 19. Dave Ziegler After the departure of former player personnel head Nick Caserio, Ziegler assumed the role, and took on many of Caserio’s duties. He took himself out of the running for the top job in Denver to stay in New England. At the moment, he sits right under Belichick as being primarily responsible for building the team through the draft and handling the prep work for free agency. 20. Jim Whalen Trainers can be the unsung heroes of sports teams. Whalen certainly qualifies. He’s been the head athletic trainer for the team since 2002, treating players through five of their Super Bowl wins. Whalen’s longevity speaks to the trust Belichick has in him to take care of the players and treat their respective ailments. 21. Berj Najarian Officially, he’s listed as the director of football/head coach administration. He is Belichick’s true right-hand man, managing the nitty gritty details associated with the Patriots head coach. He’s responsible for doing all the things that would take up considerable time, be it Belichick’s schedule, handling interview requests for the head coach, and beyond. Tedy Bruschi once referred to him as the consigliere. 22. Ted Harper He’s entering his tenth season as team dietician and nutritionist. Over the years, players have been highly complimentary of Harper’s role when it comes to providing performance-based nutrition and shaping their diets. It’s another unheralded job, but an important one nonetheless. 23. Nancy Meier Officially, her title is Director of Scouting Administration. Unofficially, she’s the straw that stirs the drink internally in the organization. Even Belichick considers her one of the most essential people on the staff. She’s the go-to for just about everything, whether handling the logistics for the Patriots scouts, free agent signings, draft choices, tryouts, etc. She is the longest-tenured member of the organization. It’s easy to see why. 24. Dan Famosi Every team needs a good tech guy, especially during a pandemic. For the Patriots, Famosi is that guy. He’s also in the six-ring club, having arrived in 2000, the same year as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Famosi handles all the IT needs of the coaching staff and scouting and football operations departments. He also provides technical support for the team during road games and is the game day sideline communications technician. On top of that, he maintains the research databases for the scouting staff. 25. Eliot Wolf He was hired by the Patriots as a scouting consultant last year, and brought a ton of experience with him. He was a former Browns assistant GM in 2018 and 2019. Before that, he spent 14 years in the Packers front office, the last two as their director of football operations. He’s the son of former Packers GM Ron Wolf, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The younger Wolf brings smarts and savvy to the equation and appears headed for a more prominent role. During the recent draft, it was Wolf who was dispatched to scout some of the bigger-name quarterback prospects, namely Justin Fields and Zach Wilson. Sign up for email newsletters