NFL team roster moves are commonplace this time of year with the NFL draft upon us and big trades such as Antonio Brown moving to the Oakland Raiders and Odell Beckham Jr. being traded to the Cleveland Browns. However, the biggest news for the New England Patriots fans came on March 24, 2019 when Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement. Gronkowski, lovingly referred to as Gronk by his fans, was New England’s former tight end.
In 2010, Gronk was picked up by the Patriots in the second round of the NFL Draft. During his eight years with the Pats, he caught a franchise record number of touchdown passes, totaling 79 completed touchdown passes, with 12 in the postseason. Players with a comparable number of touchdown catches during their 20s are the illustrious Randy Moss and Jerry Rice, both Hall of Famers. He finished his career in the Super Bowl LIII, leading the Patriots to their sixth title win in franchise history. Gronk holds the record for tight end postseason yards at 1,163, an impressive 316 yards ahead of the next best tight end, Dallas Clark.
Today, Gronk is considered one of the best tight ends in the game, not only because of his skill as a receiver, but also as an instrumental blocker. When asked about Gronk’s retirement, Patriot’s head coach Bill Belichick said “Rob will leave the game as among the best, most complete players at his position to ever play.” While Gronk has impressive statistics for touchdowns and has been an instrumental blocker, there remains controversy regarding Gronk as a first-ballot pick for the Hall of Fame. Though he is ineligible for another five years, analysts speculate that he will not be a first ballot Hall of Famer due to his lower statistics compared to the statistics of 2019 first ballot tight end Tony Gonzalez with 1,325 receptions, 15,127 yards and 111 TDs. Though many agree that Gronk’s lower numbers are due to the short length of his career, there is no question that Gronk achieved more in his short time than most. Despite this controversy, Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, said “I look forward to honoring him in the near future as both a Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer. […] While Patriot fans are certainly going to miss seeing him play, he will remain a Patriot for life and be celebrated as a three-time Super Bowl champion.”