I know that Tom Brady is the GOAT, but I think people love Rob Gronkowski just as much, if not more. He’s just such a meat head, but also has such a kind heart. Every time you saw him, he was always smiling and laughing. He also gave back more to the community than any player I’ve ever seen. Seemed like he was always at the hospital, not having surgeries, but visiting sick kids and making their days brighter.
He’s going to be missed probably more than I can put into words, but, position-wise, he’s as good as Brady: by far the best tight end to ever play in the league, and maybe the most complete skill position player of all time. I don’t know if I could pull out a singular moment from his career, but, at least once a game, he would do something that would make you look at the person next to you and say “How the hell did he do that?”
The catch in the corner against the Broncos, the one handed reception at the goal line against the Broncos, dragging six Redskins 40 yards, and a million other plays. He also stepped up in the biggest moments, making two insane catches in Denver in the 2015 playoffs, both on fourth down, the touchdown against the Seahawks, and the catches this year against the Chiefs and Rams. There’s no one else I would rather throw the ball to with the game on the line.
The Patriots have always been able to overcome the personnel losses they have had without skipping a beat. I would imagine things might be different this year. It’s not that they won’t be good, it’s that Gronkowski is literally impossible to replace. He was a once in a generation talent, and a once in a generation personality. That’s one underrated thing about Gronk: everyone loved him.
New England is a tough place to play, and you need guys who can lighten the mood and make everyone laugh. Gronk has always been that type of guy, and that will be sorely missed in the locker room. There will be other great tight ends, it’s even possible that the Patriots could draft one next month, but there will never be another Gronk. He blocked like a third offensive tackle, and was a matchup nightmare on every pass play.
My assumption is that the Patriots know that, and won’t try to replace him with just one player. Whatever their answer is, they have a lot of work to do. They have minimal depth at the wide receiver position, and even less at tight end. Helping put Tom Brady in a position to win a seventh ring should be the only priority right now. Of course, Gronk’s agent insinuated a simple phone call mid season might be able to sway him back to the team. After all, who can say no to Tom Brady?
At the end of the day, it’s hard to feel anything but happiness for Gronk, though. He gave everything he had to the Patriots for nine years, and, even when his body failed him, he stepped up and put everything on the line for his team. Knowing the shape that his back was in, and that he was playing through an injury at the end of last season, it’s no surprise that he walked away now.
If he is, in fact, done playing football, he went out on just about the highest of notes possible: not only did the Patriots win the Super Bowl, but he had two of the biggest plays of the postseason in two huge moments. As good as Gronk was, he never had that signature play to win them a playoff game or a Super Bowl. He got both of those this postseason. The Chiefs play was just pure physical domination against one of the premier safeties in the league. Then, against the Rams, it was the mix of a perfect throw and an amazing catch. Those two plays will serve as the icing to an already impressive cake.
Patriots fans will miss Gronk, although I’m sure we’ll see him around. Any time I’m missing him, I’m going to imagine him making jokes about a specific number and spiking random household items. That will be sure to leave me with a smile on my face, which isn’t surprising, because that’s what always seems to happen when Gronk is around.
Pat is the co-host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats