The Legacy of Rob Gronkowski
Foxborough, MA– On Sunday, Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL, and the league immediately jumped into action to honor the departure of one of their best and most fun superstars. But what legacy does Gronk leave behind for the Patriots, for football, and for sports as a whole?
During his career, Gronk was an immutable offensive force. He was a not-so-secret weapon that the Patriots could unleash at any moment to transform their offensive into whatever they wanted it to be, which more often than not involved becoming an offensive that was entirely unguardable. Including the post-season, Gronk racked up 602 receptions for 9,024 receiving yards and 91 touchdowns. His numbers don't quite measure up to some of the league's best tight ends, but considering the amount of time played and his season-by-season dominance, there is no denying that, at the peak of their powers, no tight end has ever been better than Gronk.
No one could replicate Gronk either. His singular, generational talent gave the Patriots a perpetual trump card. An offensive weapon like no other, they don't make players like Gronk anymore. Then again, they never have.
Tom Brady and Randy Moss are probably the most incredible on-field duo in Patriots history, but Brady and Gronk lasted much longer. The fun-loving tight end upended years of "the Patriot way" by letting loose, but never by being a bad teammate. Gronk bolstered an entire third phase of the Patriots' dynasty and he leaves on top as a Super Bowl champion. With his clutch catch to set up the winning touchdown for New England in 2019's Super Bowl, he might have vaulted the Patriots' dynasty into its fourth phase.
But Gronk was so much more than a partier and so much more than a wrecking ball on the field. He was also a great blocker, one of the best in the past two decades of football, and he was a Patriots captain. His reputation as a meme (think: "Yo soy fiesta") may have preceded him, but it never affected his game, and coach Bill Belichick acknowledged him as one of the best to ever do it.
It's like if you were playing an NBA video game and you turned the sliders all the way up for three-pointers and kept heaving half court shots with Kyrie Irving. That's what Gronk was. You could press one button and get exactly what you needed. No player from any sport has ever been more of a human cheat code than Gronk has been. I'll miss seeing Gronk's patented spikes every Sunday. It remains to be seen how he'll continue his storied, Hall of Fame legacy off the field.