It’s hard to imagine now, after six Super Bowl titles and two decades atop the N.F.L., but for most of their existence the New England Patriots were awful.
The team didn’t have a permanent home for its first decade, and then left Boston in 1971 for the windswept Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough. The owners fought and sank into debt. Brief moments of winning, including two Super Bowl appearances last century, were punctuated by years of losing.
The fortunes of the franchise began to change in 1994 when Robert K. Kraft, a local businessman and longtime Patriots season ticket holder, bought the team. His first years in charge were rocky, but in 2000, he hired Bill Belichick, a coach who doubled as a de facto general manager and chose quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round of the draft.
The triumvirate created one of the most successful dynasties in sports and the third most valuable franchise, worth an estimated $7 billion. They joined the rarefied company of teams like the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys, internationally recognized brands synonymous with American success. While it once would have been rare to glimpse the team’s Pat the Patriot logo south of Hartford, Brady jerseys became a common sight in countries around the globe. Kraft, in turn, became one of the N.F.L.’s most influential owners.