As Rob Gronkowski goes, so does Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. The full return of Gronk (as well as the development of the offensive line) has transformed the Patriots offense from a bottom feeder to a contender, which begs the question: Just how much does Brady rely on Gronkowski?
Julian Edelman looked like an integral member of the offense to open up the year but has definitely taken a more integreated role, as opposed to featured role, as of late. Brandon LaFell has added a big play element to the receivers and Shane Vereen has been pulling his weight out of the back field. The offense has evolved and Gronk is to thank.
One method, and certainly not the only method, of measuring Brady's reliance is to use Pro Football Reference's expected points added for all Patriots players and checking how each player's performance compares to Brady's:
We see that Brady has certainly had an up-and-down season, but so has everyone else. Gronk has remained positive all year.
When running the correlation between each player's success and Brady's success for the game, we find some pretty interesting figures:
So Brady's performance is heavily linked to success from Gronk and LaFell, and to a lesser extent Edelman.
That's not to say Edelman isn't an important member of the team (his 20.9 expected points added [EPA] is second to Gronk), but that Brady's overall performance is more related to how Gronk plays than how Edelman plays.
So for the sake of the Patriots, Gronk, please stay healthy. Brady is counting on you.
EPA on Tom Brady passing plays