By Jack Belanger ’21
We all knew it was going to happen eventually; there was no way anyone could expect Rob Gronkowski to play into his 40s like his quarterback. With the number of injuries he was enduring, continuing to play is not worth it. As sad as it is to see Gronkowski’s Hall of Fame career end so quickly, appreciate the fact that he was able to go out a champion while he was still relatively successful on the field.
While I am sure many fans would have loved to see Gronk play for another year, the risk of injury and becoming ineffective on the field would only result in many calling for his retirement. He has not played in more than 14 games in the past three seasons, and that probably would not have changed had he kept playing.
It is amazing how quickly he was able to solidify his spot in the conversation as one of the greatest tight ends of all time. While he will not have big career numbers that stack against others who played much longer than he did, the fact that Gronk only played in nine seasons (seven of which he played more than 10 games) speaks to how much he dominated defenders on the field.
However, Gronk’s Hall of Fame career began and ended while Tom Brady continues to add to his own legacy.
While it may seem Brady and the Patriots’ next challenge going forward is to figure out how to make up for the Gronk-sized hole in the offense, believe it or not, it may not be a challenge at all.
The Patriots have seen their fair share of great receivers come and go during the Brady era, and Bill Belichick and Brady have shown that the offense can adjust. Did the dynasty go away when Randy Moss and Wes Welker left? Nope. In fact, New England was able to make and win three Super Bowls after they both left the team.
The Patriots still have several great receiving options on the roster with Julian Edelman returning for a full season, a great pass-catcher in running back James White, and a promising runner in Sony Michel.
New England also owns three picks in the first two rounds of the NFL draft this season. Do not be surprised if you see Belichick pick up a tight end in the second round. Gronkowski himself was a second-round pick after getting overlooked due to injuries in college. Expect the Pats to look at University of Alabama’s Irv Smith and Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger as two tight ends who should be available when it comes time for the team to pick.
While it may be the end of one crazy, exciting, and amazing Hall of Fame career, Gronkowski will always be a key piece that helped keep the dynasty alive during this decade that elevated the Patriots’ offense to new levels post-Moss and Welker.