Kraft vs. Blank: A Look At The Owners in Super Bowl LI
Super Bowl LI is as much about Tom Brady’s quest for a fifth ring as it is about the two team’s opposing owners. Robert Kraft and Arthur Blank, both shrewd businessmen, have shared very different paths to competing against one another for a Super Bowl ring.
Kraft, who built a paper and packaging company into an empire and fortune for himself, bought the New England Patriots in 1994. On the other hand, Blank re-invented the hardware store for the average American when he co-founded Home Depot in 1978. Once Blank gained the capital, the New York native bought the Atlanta Falcons in February of 2002. While Kraft and Blank have both thrived financially, estimated at $5.2 and $3.1 billion respectively, the on-field success of their teams could not be any more opposite.
In the 2000 NFL Draft, Kraft selected a quarterback from San Mateo, California with the 199th overall pick. His name was Tom Brady. While originally drafted as a backup to starter Drew Bledsoe at the time, Kraft never knew Brady would blossom into the player he is today. After Bledsoe went down with an injury, Brady took over at the helm of the offense, and the rest is history.
In contrast, Blank and the Falcons were extremely hopeful of their number one overall pick in the 2001 draft. Michael Vick out of Virginia Tech. Bursting onto the scene, Vick established himself as an elite quarterback who was not afraid to use his feet. In 2004, Vick led the Falcons to the NFC Championship game, where they would fall to the Philadelphia Eagles. Amidst dogfighting charges in 2007, Vick was sentenced to two years in prison. This forced the Falcons to look elsewhere for a quarterback, and would be the closest Blank would come to reaching the big game, until now.
On April 26, 2008, the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan out of Boston College. The Pennsylvania native would go on to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award and reach the playoffs in ’08, ’10, ’11, and ’12, but never make it out of the divisional round. With maturity and new weapons surrounding him, Ryan was named 1st team All-Pro in 2016, giving Blank a shot at his long- awaited Lombardi trophy.
Sunday’s matchup has a David versus Goliath feel to it, and it's not just about the opposing quarterbacks. It’s also about Robert Kraft versus Arthur Blank. Most owners never see their teams compete for a championship, never mind win one and obtain a perennial player to contend for one year in and year out. We know Robert Kraft was lucky enough to find his player in Tom Brady, which begs the golden question: Did Arthur Blank find his in Matt Ryan?