Analysis Around the League Opinion

What Gronkowski’s return to the NFL means for the Chiefs and the rest of the league

The soon to be 31 year old Rob Gronkowski has pulled a Michael Jordan and come back to professional sports. It seems this move was mainly fueled by a want to reunite with his only professional quarterback in Tom Brady, on the sunny shores of Tampa Bay. Both men it seems wanted out of the frigid Boston winters and the empirical tyranny of Bill Belichick, although said tyranny has resulted in nothing but wins for the boys in New England. The move seems to make since at first glance. The pair can pull a “snow bird” and migrate south to the sun and sand, enjoying the semi-retirement and player friendly attitude of coach Bruce Arians. Both can play the sport for double digit millions, while not having to spend sun up to sun down studying film or practicing outside in freezing temperatures. And this move has made the Buccaneers the media darling, featuring non stop coverage on ESPN and the other various sporting news outlets. Like the Browns of 2019, the talking heads have been obsessing over the Bucs revamped roster. From an aesthetic standpoint, what is not to like? The “golden boy” Tom Brady reunites with his old friend and most reliable receiver Rob Gronkowski. Gronk stated when he stepped away he would never catch a pass from another QB, and he is staying true to his word. Like fools gold and the 2019 Browns however, this talent laden roster might not stand up when examined under closer scrutiny. 

The first flaw of Gronk’s (and Brady’s) move is fairly obvious. As the saying goes, father time is undefeated. By the start of the season Gronk will be 31, and “touchdown Tommy” will be 43, an unprecedented age for the short lived nature of NFL careers. How much can these two scrape from the bottom of their prospective barrels? Gronk’s age doesn’t do his story full justice either. Talking to Sports Illustrated, Gronk stated he has had 9 surgeries, many of which were for his back, which as anyone who has had back surgery will tell you, it is never the same after. He also estimated he has had “somewhere around 20 concussions,” which is an absolutely astronomical amount. This was his main reason for retiring while still being a productive player, his body (and brain) simply couldn’t hold up to the violence that the game of football entails. Gronk is the only TE to ever have 7 years of 1000+ receiving yards however, so many NFL teams were still enamored by his potential service. The last half of his final season in New England he looked like a shell of his former self however. The brutal physicality and amazing agility for his size had seemingly ceased to exist. He should’ve gone out on top, a super bowl champ and first ballot Hall of Famer. Just like Michael Jordan however, the game (and Tom Brady) kept calling him back. He hadn’t officially filed his retirement papers, so his contract for 10 million a year probably didn’t hurt. Since he hadn’t retired, this made the move to Tampa a little trickier. Robert Kraft and the Pats brass however respected his wishes, and came out of it with a 4thround pick, adding to their stockpile of 12 picks for this draft that puts them only behind the Dolphins who tanked their way to an insane 14 picks.

Why should Chiefs fans care? Well there are a few reasons. The first being, it seems the dynasty of New England is done, at least for now. The new guard has emerged in the AFC, with the Chiefs leading the way. The Ravens are trying to keep up, but as anyone who watched the Chiefs 2019-2020 season saw, you don’t keep up with Patrick Mahomes. The Texans were also close, but thankfully Bill O’Brien has traded away a lot of hope for them. The Buccaneers seem to be trying to emulate the Chiefs model, stockpiling massive amounts of offensive weapons, but as anyone who has been to a cover band concert will tell you, the music is never quite as sweet as the original. Gronk is the Jimi Hendrix to Travis Kelce’s Eric Clapton; he hit amazing highs during his short run. But unlike in music, longevity is vital to football. The Super Bowl is hosted in Tampa Bay this year, meaning if the Bucs don’t pull a Browns and do manage to see some on field success, it could be the first home Super Bowl in the modern era. As the Chiefs homer I am, I don’t think it will end up making a difference, should both teams end up squaring off in the big game. The era of Tom Brady is over and the new guard has arrived. The power has shifted in this league, and Gronk and Tom are grasping to stay relevant in a league that dispenses parody like candy. They might make a run, but if anything, this move has made the Chiefs road through the AFC that much easier, eliminating a long dreaded foe in Foxboro. Thanks boys, you had a good run, but we’ll take it from here.

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