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Kratch’s heart still bleeds Giants blue — with a trace of purple
Jan 30, 2012
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By Matt Kane
Sports Editor
Photo courtesy of Bob Kratch
Bob Kratch celebrates winning Super Bowl XXV with the New York Giants with his mother, Roberta, Jan. 27, 1991, in Tampa, FL. He pinpoints the Super Bowl win as his proudest NFL moment. Kratch returned to the Super Bowl in January of 1997 with the New England Patriots. Green Bay defeated New England 35-21 in what turned out to be Kratch’s final NFL game. Ironically, for the second time in five seasons, Kratch’s two NFL teams — the Giants and Patriots — are meeting in the Super Bowl.

WATERTOWN — Just like he did four years ago heading into Super Bowl XLII, Watertown’s Bob Kratch is pulling for the New York Giants to win Super Bowl XLVI over the New England Patriots.

The Giants won Super Bowl XLII 17-14 in an upset over the Patriots, and Kratch is sticking with his team again.

“I’m rooting for a great game, but my heart is with the Giants,” the 46-year old Kratch said from the comfy cushion of one of the luxurious easy chairs for sale at Mudd Lake Furniture Co., which he owns with his family east of Watertown.

Kratch’s never-waning allegiance with the Giants stems from his roots with the team. He was selected by the Giants 64th overall in the third round of the 1989 NFL Draft out of Iowa, and went on to play five of his eight NFL seasons (1989-97) in New York. In just his second season with the big blue, Kraft, a right guard, helped the Giants win Super Bowl XXV over the Buffalo Bills, 20-19, in Tampa.

The question about whether he was pulling for the Giants or the Patriots in the Super Bowl four years ago and, again, this year, is pertinent because Kraft also played in a Super Bowl for the Patriots. It was Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, where Kraft’s New England teams lost 35-21 to the Green Bay Packers and a young gunslinger named Brett Favre.

Just like four years ago, Kraft, who grew up in New Jersey, is clearly a Giant at heart when choosing sides.

“I wanted the Giants to win,” he said of the conference championship weekend. “When we won (the NFC championship), we actually played in San Francisco, so that was kind of cool seeing that. It’s kind of exciting and fun — not that I live in the past; I am totally over football and don’t miss it — it was great memories.

He didn’t have as much love for the Patriots.

“I wanted to see the Patriots game go into overtime, and I wanted the Ravens to win,” Kratch admitted.

If the Ravens would have won, it would have been a rematch of Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, where Baltimore defeated New York 34-7.

As for the upcoming game, if the Giants are to win again over the Patriots, they will again need to stay in the face of Tom Brady, Kratch insists.

“I think, with how they are playing and how they are peaking, and I hope I don’t jinx them, they are the better team,” he said, referring to the Giants. “Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense is pretty powerful, but the Giants have a great defense, and it’s always been said that great defense wins championships, and I think it still does. I think that’s a huge factor for the Giants. I think, if they can disrupt Brady, that’s going to be one of the deciding factors.

“In the last Super Bowl, (the Giants) whooped (Brady’s) ass pretty good.”

Then and now
On the Giants teams Kratch played on, it wasn’t unusual for their defense to put a hurting on opposing quarterbacks, just like the current team does.

“They were phenomenal,” Kratch said of the Giants’ defense that he faced every day in practice. “You had Lawrence Taylor, who is one of the greatest players who ever played. Even in practice, he would play at game tempo. They were all good — Leonard Marshall and Pepper Johnson.”

That punishing defense is about the only similarity between this year’s Giants and the team Kraft played on in Super Bowl XXV.

“We were a ball-control offense. The Giants are still playing good defense, but the game has changed a lot. We were more of a running team, and, if we threw the ball 18 times, that was a lot. The game has drastically changed,” he explained. “The Giants can still run the ball and power the ball with (Brandon) Jacobs and (Ahmad) Bradshaw, but, back in the 80s and 90s, it was power football for the Giants, with tough defense and low scoring games.”

As for the Brady-led Patriots, the want to pass is still greater than the seemingly pass-first offense Kratch played on during the 1996 season and Super Bowl XXXI with Drew Bledsoe under center.

As far as similarities between today’s Giants and Patriots and Kratch’s teams, that’s about it.

So what made Kratch’s Super Bowl winning Giants team a champion? A little of everything.

“I think just overall we were a solid team. We had great special teams, which is often overlooked. Our offense would dictate to our defense, which means we controlled the clock and tried to keep the defense off the field. We played very physical, and we just wanted to keep the score close,” Kratch explained. “The biggest thing was that, during challenging times during the season, we were able to really come together as a team at a different level that a lot of teams couldn’t get to. There are certain points in a season where there are challenges where, as players, you have to make a decision away from the coaches. There were a couple of coming-to-Jesus meetings that were pretty tough. Players were vocal. We just stuck together and had great chemistry.”

The Patriots team Kratch went to the Super Bowl with was similar to the Giants.

“It was kind of the same thing as it was with the Giants, where there was a point where we were challenged and we were able to gel and gain that chemistry to get through some adversities,” Kratch said. “Bill Parcells used to say, ‘When the boat starts rocking, who is going to hold on and who is going to jump ship?’”

Talent wasn’t the only key to winning a Super Bowl.

“Honestly, it takes a lot of luck to win a Super Bowl,” Kratch admitted. “We had a lot of luck. We had a number of breaks go our way.”

Lucky breaks like LT’s recovery of Roger Craig’s fumble with just over two minutes to play in the 1991 NFC Championship game, and Matt Bahr’s field goal that gave the Giants a 15-13 win with no time on the clock in that same game. Also in that game against the 49ers, Leonard Marshall knocked Joe Montana out of the game with a blind-side hit. Just a week after the luck-filled win in the NFC title game came the luckiest break of Kratch’s and the Giants’ season — Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood’s missed game-winning field goal with no time remaining in the Super Bowl.

“There is luck, but you do put yourself in position to earn that,” Kratch said.

Photo by Matt Kane
Bob Kratch holds the two helmets he wore in the two Super Bowls he played in during his eight-year NFL career. Behind him is the jersey he wore when he won Super Bowl XXV with the New York Giants.

Still linked
As much as the cities of New York and Boston seem to despise each other when a game is being played, the two metropolitan areas are greatly linked, especially when it comes to the Patriots and Giants. Locally, Kraft is a link to both franchises, but he was just one of many players who followed Bill Parcels from New York to New England. And, on either sideline, this Sunday during the Super Bowls, the two head coaches also share a link to Parcells and the Giants, as they were both assistants under Parcells with the Giants during Super Bowl XXV. New York coach Tom Coughlin was the receivers coach on that Giants team, and New England coach Bill Belichick was the defensive coordinator for Parcels on that team.

As an offensive lineman, Kratch never dealt with either coach first-hand during their shared Giants years, but he knows enough about them.

“It’s obvious how far they have come, especially Belichick,” Kratch said. “When Belichick was at Cleveland, he struggled. The resilience and with what he has done since, he could go into that elite group of coaches. If he wins another one, he will be up there with Knoll and Lombardi. Some people put him in that status already.”

Kratch believe both Belichick and Coughlin became good coaches because they were able and willing to adjust to the changes in the game of football.

“They relate well to today’s players. I think the biggest successes is that they have been able to modify themselves. I’ve been out of the game for 15 years, and players are different than they were 15 years ago. The coaches had to change,” he explained. “I think their players buy into them and they respect what they do. They are probably the same coaches teaching and breaking down the game of football.”

Coughlin has changed the most, according to Kratch.

“Tom Coughlin, back in the day, was a very tough coach when he was a head coach. He was a drill sergeant,” he said. “He kind of had a change of heart when they won the Super Bowl four years back. He changed his militant kind of dictatorship ways.”

Two of Kratch’s former Giants teammates will also be coaching in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Former tight end Mike Pope, coaches the tight ends in New York, and former linebacker Pepper Johnson, coaches the linebackers with New England.

Former running back Dave Meggett was the only player to have been a teammate of Kratch’s on both the Giants and Patriots’ Super Bowl teams. Another teammate of Kratch’s with that Giants team was Brian Williams, who lives in Waconia. Williams’ son, Maxx, will play football with the Gophers next season.

Super Bowl shuffle
Kratch’s role in the upcoming Super Bowl is easy — be a fan. That has been the case now for 15 years, but, he remembers what Super Bowl week was like leading into the big game when he played.

“You had all this other stuff to worry about while you are trying to prepare for the biggest game of your life,” Kratch remembers.

Getting tickets and arranging hotels and travel for family were the responsibility of the players back when Kratch played. And they had to do it in the course of one week, as opposed to the two weeks the players now have between the conference games and the Super Bowl. Kratch said the Giants never went home after winning in San Francisco.

“When we played, we only had a week, so we flew right from San Francisco to Tampa. There is a lot of excitement, but the coaches always said to ‘downplay it and don’t get caught up in it,’” he explained. “Media day now, I’m sure, is a real spectacle. Today, it must be really difficult because the celebrity status in the NFL and in all professional sports is elevated so high. You have guys dating Kardashions, and everybody is put on such a high pedestal that the media attention around the Super Bowl has grown so much.

“It was crazy back then, but we were kept pretty private in our hotel, and we didn’t have a lot of exposure, because we were trying to keep our minds focused on practice and getting prepared for that game.”

That disciplined attitude was the way of Bill Parcells, who coached Kratch in both Super Bowls.

“As players, this is what you play for and this is what you dream of, so you want to do all the right things. You want to have a little fun, but it’s business,” Kratch added. “I know both of these teams down there are focused on meetings and film and preparations. You don’t want to do things out of the norm. You want to try to stick to your schedule as much as possible.”

Photos courtesy of Bob Kratch
Kratch spent three seasons in New England with the Patriots, but was injury ridden during his stay. He retired from football following the Patriots’ loss in Super Bowl XXXI.

Those were the days
As far as football goes, Kratch is happy to be just a fan today.

“Believe it or not, I am a Vikings fan and I root for the home team. They had that loss against New Orleans a couple of years ago and I was emotionally drained,” he said, then throwing out a bombshell to New Yorkers. “Believe it or not, I would rather see the Vikings win the Super Bowl ahead of my Giants and Patriots.”

Kratch’s time to be a NFL fan, however, is limited by his current life after football.

“I’m a fan. On weekends, I’m working, but I catch games and I enjoy watching it,” he said. “The other thing, too, with our three kids in sports, we spend a lot of time watching sports.”

Kratch and his wife Kristi put plenty of miles on their vehicles chasing those kids. Their oldest son, Colby, is a tight end at the University of Toledo; Nate, a senior at Watertown-Mayer, is a standout basketball player who will play at Santa Clara next winter; and, Mackenzie, a freshman at Watertown-Mayer, is a defenseman on the Mound-Westonka girls hockey team.

Seeing his kids succeed means more than a Super Bowl ring to Kratch.

“It means more to me seeing my kids plays sports and succeed in the game of life, and on the court and on the field and on the ice,” he said. “Yeah, the Super Bowl is great and people might envy you and look up to you, but, to me, what really is important is raising great kids with a great work ethic. To me, that is huge.

“I never understood how proud my mom and dad were of me until I watched my kids succeed and overcome some major challenges.”

Still, having been a NFL player is pretty cool, and Kratch is reminded of that on random occasions when he receives a letter from a Giants fan or an autograph request in the mail. And every year he is reminded of his NFL success when the Super Bowl comes around.

“It is a pride thing. I think every year around the Super Bowl is special to me because as a kid I always looked forward to Super Bowl Sunday. I remember watching the Vikings playing the Raiders,” said Kratch, who played in 105 career games in the NFL. “The thing about it is, as you get older you really appreciate it. Not that I tell anybody about it, I rarely wear my Super Bowl ring, but there is a sense of pride in thinking, ‘Wow, I was part of a team that really did that, because it’s so hard to do.’”

Football and furniture fans can reminisce about Kratch’s playing days and discuss the upcoming Super Bowl, while testing out the right chair to watch the big game, this Saturday, Feb. 4, at a tailgate party hosted by Kratch and Mudd Lake Furniture Co., which is located at 10685 County Rd. 24 in Watertown. The store is offering 20 percent off everything in stock Feb. 1-5. The store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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