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Sports Illustrated article shows how Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is a football genius

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The profile of the tight end shows how he’s a total football savant.

Sports Illustrated has handed the magazine over the Monday Morning Quarterback crew this month and they have an awesome feature on New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. There are apparently some good notes from the Patriots victory over the Cardinals in the magazine itself, so it might be worth checking out.

Let’s talk about the article on Gronk, though. The premise is that the Patriots All Pro tight end is a football savant that is one of the biggest game-changers on the planet, despite his goofy personality off the field. In my opinion, this is a spot on analysis of Gronkowski

“Rob is a versatile athlete, but he’s also a versatile guy mentally,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told MMQB/SI. “He can handle a lot of different assignments. Some guys can’t. Either they mentally can’t do it, or it’s just too much and their game slows down. They don’t play to the same skill set you see athletically because they’re thinking too much. That’s not the case with Rob.”

Belichick actually shed some light on the complex nature of the Patriots offense and how he uses Gronkowski to give the Patriots an edge on a weekly basis.

“There are a lot of defensive looks that go with that formationing,” Belichick said, referring to to act of moving Gronkowski and other players around the formation. “If you’re always in the same spot, you’re probably going to see only a few different looks. When you’re in a lot of different spots, the look changes. Different assignments. Different techniques. A different picture on the defense. And as those multiples go together, it just becomes exponential. Three different plays become 15 plays.”

Essentially, Gronkowski is a huge chess piece because he can line up on the line, in the backfield, in the slot or out wide. The quarterback can move Gronk anywhere in the formation to take advantage of a defensive formation, but this also requires Gronkowski to know what to do in each of those roles on any given play.

Gronkowski’s importance becomes even more clear when you learn that he also knows the blocking scheme and call on every given play, “in case [Tom Brady] flips the direction of a running play.”

The Patriots ask more of Gronkowski than any other player and he doesn’t just excel; he dominates.

Gronkowski sheds some insight on how he became such a dominant force and how quarterback Tom Brady helped, ahem, inspire his growth.

“When I first got into the league, I just used to run,” Gronkowski said. “Just run the route. Really no technique to it. I really couldn’t separate myself from the defender.

“Tom [Brady] is a teacher. At first he just tells you what to do. If you don’t get it right after that, he’ll come at you hard. He’d come at you really hard back in the day. He’s not really like that anymore, at age 39. But back in the day, like six years ago, he used to come at me hard if I didn’t do it right.”

I have to interject because I love the idea of 2016 Brady being a more chilled out version of 2010 Brady, sipping Mai Tais in the locker room at halftime. On to the story.

“Tom wanted me to get outside leverage on this flag route [in practice], and I just couldn’t. I just kept going inside. And he just flipped out on me about it. He said, ‘All right, the ball’s not going to you then.’ ” Gronkowski’s eyes drift down as he relates the story. “I remember that.” After a slight pause, he says, “So finally I just started learning, All right, I’ve got to get outside.”

I’m not sure what Brady did here, but it totally worked. Is this the classic I’m Not Mad, But I’m Disappointed? Or the I’m Taking My Ball And Going Home? But the Patriots need more players on offense that respond like Gronkowski did.

Read the full profile here. There are a lot of good quotes from rival coaches and Gronkowski himself.