The most dominant tight end of all time has retired. What is next for Rob Gronkowski?
More than a month after winning his third Super Bowl, Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski has decided to retire after nine legendary seasons. The future Hall of Famer will go down as the best tight end to ever play in the NFL, dominating every aspect of the game for the majority of his career.
Gronkowski, known as “Gronk” to the football world, spent his entire career with the New England Patriots since being drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The beast of a man paid immediate dividends, scoring 10 touchdowns in his rookie year while playing in all 16 games. He soared in his sophomore year, logging perhaps the greatest single season ever by a tight end. His 17 touchdowns are still a record, while his yards mark was broken this year by Travis Kelce, and then again by George Kittle.
One of the best games of Gronk’s illustrious career came during his best season. And it was a playoff game. After winning a walk-off game at home thanks to a Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas overtime touchdown, the Broncos traveled to Foxboro for a Divisional Round matchup. Gronkowski proceeded to torch the Broncos, corralling 10 passes for 145 yards, as well as three touchdowns. All of the touchdowns were scored in the first half, as the Patriots went to the locker room up 35-7. New England would end up advancing to the Super Bowl, which was Gronkowski’s first, before losing to the New York Giants.
After fully completing his first two seasons, Gronkowski would never record a 16-game season again. The tight end broke his forearm in the 2012 season and was forced to miss time. Following surgery on his forearm, Gronkowski was diagnosed with a nasty infection that would require more surgeries. Fans will always remember the clunky armguard Gronkowski was forced to wear following the injury.
In 2013, Gronkowski was forced to undergo a back surgery that caused him to miss the beginning of the 2013 season. Almost two months after returning to action, the hobbled weapon tore his ACL and MCL. Entering the 2014 season, Gronkowski shocked the NFL and returned to his dominant self, logging his first All-Pro selection since his famous 2011 campaign. The tight end was an integral part of Super Bowl 49, where Gronkowski won the first of his three Super Bowls.
Football fans of all teams were able to put aside the hatred normally harbored for the New England Patriots and their never-ending success when talking about Gronk. His playing style and infectious personality could win over bitter opponents on a divisional rival.
Gronkowski revolutionized the simplest celebration in the history of football, essentially renaming the action the “Gronk Spike.” His mere presence in the red zone commanded at least a double coverage for the elusive yet massive route runner.
Although we likely won’t see him again as a player, we haven’t seen the last of Gronkowski on the field. The party animal is great in front of the camera and would be an excellent option as a broadcaster for any sports outlet. All of his four brothers are professional athletes: Gordie, the oldest, was an MLB athlete while his other brothers all played in the NFL, with Glenn Gronkowski even serving as a Patriot for a short while.
The combination of the Gronkowski brothers could form a great sports show intermixing their party-hard mentality and professional sports. Regardless of what path Gronk takes, he will certainly bring a unique energy with him.
While fans may still be suffering through the different stages of grief, the door has not closed on a return, as Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, claimed that he would not be surprised to see the All-Pro return to the field in 2019. Given the current state of the Patriots’ wide receivers and tight ends, it’s not out of the question to think that the Patriots will require Gronk’s services down the stretch of the season.
While there will always be arguments about the greatest ever at a certain position, one would be a fool to leave Gronkowski out of the “best ever” conversation. Even when he wasn’t healthy, Gronk served as a severe mismatch for defenses and one of Brady’s favorite safety blankets throughout his entire career. Gronk was a rare combination of athleticism and size and was also praised continuously by Belichick while in Foxboro.
It was a pleasure watching him play the game, and fans should consider themselves lucky to have witnessed the player who reinvented the tight end position in modern day football.