In honor of the NFL’s 100th anniversary, the league and NFL Network put together a 26-member panel of experts — one that includes New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick — to pick an All-Time Team. So far, 88 of its members have already been revealed and six of them have ties to the Patriots. On Friday, during the fourth episode of the show, two more players joined them: tight end Rob Gronkowski and guard John Hannah.
TE Rob Gronkowski
When he stepped away from football earlier this year, Rob Gronkowski ended a journey that began when the Patriots drafted him in 2010. After hearing his name called in round two, the Arizona product developed into one of the most dominant players the tight end position has ever seen: over his nine seasons in New England, Gronkowski earned three Super Bowl rings, four first-team All-Pro nominations, and set numerous NFL records.
“Rob was kind of a shot in the dark,” said Bill Belichick about the future Hall of Famer during NFL Network’s All-Time Team show. “He came up on his pre-draft visit, had a bad visit. We put him in a room, came back, he was asleep on the floor, didn’t make a very good impression,” Belichick said. “You know, we brought him in, we were getting ready to have a meeting with the coaches and go through and then he fell asleep on the floor — like ‘oh boy!’ We got a slow start there.”
“Went to Arizona, didn’t do much as a freshman, had a decent year as a sophomore, caught 30 passes, and then misses junior year with a back surgery, and then came out early for the draft. So, there wasn’t much to go on. We traded up for him and we just bet that he would come through, and he certainly did big time,” continued Belichick about a player that appeared in 115 regular season and 16 playoff games for the Patriots.
“He was a tremendous blocker,” continued Belichick when breaking down what the 30-year-old brought to the Patriots during his active career. “He’s a great kid. Whatever his public persona is on the dance floor or at a party, in the building there is no better teammate, he works extremely hard. He had a great catch-radius for kind of as stiff as he is, he could balls on the shoelaces, he could get them over his head, and he could get them behind him.”
OG John Hannah
Like Gronkowski, John Hannah is widely regarded as the greatest player his position has ever seen. A first-round draft pick by the Patriots in 1973, he went on to be named first-team All-Pro seven times and become a member of the NFL’s team of the decades for both the 1970s and the 1980s. Appearing in 183 regular season and seven playoff games for the Patriots, Hannah was an intimidating presence as both a pass protector and run blocker.
The latter showed in the 70s: In 1976, Hannah helped New England average 210.6 rushing yards over the course of the 14-game regular season — a franchise mark that still stands today. Two years later, after the NFL had switched to a 16-game regular season format, he and the rest of the Patriots’ offensive line paved the way for an NFL record 3,165 rushing yards. The number still stands undisputed today and will likely never be broken again.
“In 1972, he was the SEC champion in both the shot-put and the discus, so that gives you some idea of his explosiveness and power,” Bill Belichick said during NFL Network’s All-Time Team show. “He was literally at the point of attack on every play: when they ran to the right then he was the puller [...] if they ran to the left they ran behind him. A strong punch in pass protection. Good use of hands, and this is an explosive guy.”
“This guy is really looking to hit somebody. John was just looking for contact. And you could see his height, he really used it to his advantage: he got under defenders, played with great leverage and explosion. He wiped some guys out — wiped them out consistently,” continued Belichick about the Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer, who stepped away from the game after 13 seasons — all of which spent in New England.
For more information on the other Patriots to make the NFL’s All-Time Team, please click here: