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Robert Kraft denies ordering Belichick to trade Garoppolo

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Kraft says he was surprised to learn Belichick was making the deal for a second-round pick.

NFL: New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft says he never ordered Bill Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo before the NFL trade deadline on Oct. 31, according to Peter King of The MMQB. After an ESPN report from Seth Wickersham reported on growing discontent behind the scenes of the Patriots organization, the team put out a statement suggesting that multiple stories “have speculated theories that are unsubstantiated.”

The team had nothing else to say beyond that, until King had a phone conversation with Kraft. The statements are directly contrary to Wickersham’s report that Belichick and Kraft met for a meeting about the quarterback position that lasted half the day and caused the coach to push back other meetings. The meeting, according to the report, ended with Kraft telling Belichick that he had to trade Garoppolo immediately because he would not be in the team’s long-term plans.

Here is what Kraft told King:

“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.’”

At this point, it seems like Kraft, more than anything, is trying to deflect blame for a bad trade. Garoppolo’s play down the stretch for the San Francisco 49ers is a very clear sign that the 49ers dramatically underpaid for him, even in a contract year approaching the trade deadline. Kraft doesn’t want to take that blame.

Especially if he thinks that blame is coming from Belichick, who by all accounts wanted Garoppolo to go somewhere he could flourish but also wanted to keep him. It’s honestly hard to imagine Belichick trading Garoppolo for a second-round pick all on his own. Kraft is the one here who cares about saving face, so he’s the one denying.

Or maybe he’s telling the truth. Whatever the case, the 49ers still get a great deal.