Gronk-out-ski: Legendary tight end announces retirement after 9 seasons

Brook Ward | Flickr

Brook Ward | Flickr

One of the best tight ends of all time is hanging up his helmet for good. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement the last week of March, ending years of speculation that he would call it quits. The renowned superstar leaves behind an extremely impressive resume that assures he will be given a bust in Canton before too long.

Gronkowski was drafted out of the University of Arizona in the second round by the Patriots back in 2010 and immediately made his presence felt. By his sophomore season, Gronkowski had already set both the single-season receiving record and the single-season touchdown record for tight ends. To this day, his 17 touchdowns in 2011 make him the only tight end in NFL history to lead the league in receiving touchdowns in a season. It quickly became clear that the rising star was more than just another cog in the Patriots’ machine; he was a singular, unstoppable talent.

His dynamic play turned out to be just the spark New England needed to resume its stalling dynasty. The Patriots had not won a Super Bowl in a decade before Gronkowski came along. Following a disappointing Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants in 2012, a game in which Gronkowski was visibly hobbled, the Pats had to wait three more years for another shot at a championship. During that span, Gronkowski was riddled with injuries. Broken bones, infections, surgeries and more all threatened to derail his career at one time or another. Still, the future Hall of Famer refused to throw in the towel and helped lead his team to his first Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks in 2015.

He would once again hoist the Lombardi Trophy in 2017, though he missed that game and half the season due to a compilation of physical ailments.

Rumors started to swirl about Gronkowski’s pending retirement, but the talented tight end stuck with football and helped lead his team to two more Super Bowl appearances. Once he secured that elusive third championship ring, Gronkowski decided that despite being just 29 years old and still very elite, his body could no longer handle the constant physical toll the game of football demanded.

There is no doubt that the instantly recognizable party boy will have no problem finding a gig now that his playing days are over. Given his quirky personality, it seems more than likely that Gronkowski will join a broadcast team or perhaps venture into the world of professional wrestling.

Gronkowski and his family have long been fans of the WWE, and reporters are already beginning
to float the possibility to the world. Regardless, it seems that Gronk
will not have trouble flourishing
after football.

The Patriots, on the other hand, may not be so lucky. The team that always finds a way to replace every departing player may have trouble coming up with someone who’s as talented as the retiring tight end; Gronkowski is one of the best to ever do it.

Replicating that kind of production just doesn’t happen overnight. Combining that with the Robert Kraft prostitution scandal, Greg Schiano’s abrupt resignation and the potential emergence of the New York Jets within their own division, it seems like there may be trouble in New England for the first time this century.

Then again, if anyone can find a way to keep the Patriots at the top, it is Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Their ages, however, imply that neither will be dominating the league much longer.

Brady is already the oldest quarterback in the NFL, while Belichick is the second-oldest head coach. It is likely that both men will be joining their former ally in retirement before long. Gronkowski’s exit may have simply expedited the process.

Over the past two decades, the Patriots have evolved into the most dominant dynasty in football. Just when it seemed like their ascent was plateauing, a loud-mouthed tight end joined the roster and reaffirmed the league that the Pats were here to stay.

Gronkowski will forever be known as an iconic player and personality who helped revitalize New England when the team needed it the most. It is hard to argue that New England is not worse off without him, but it is possible that this retirement may not be permanent. At only 29, Gronkowski may soon feel that he has enough left in the tank to give it one more shot with Brady and the gang.

Even if this is it for him, his legacy is cemented in stone. In many ways, Gronkowsi’s career arc is similar to that of MLB Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. Both had an unusually brief career but managed to be so phenomenal over that stretch of time that they deserve to be enshrined among the greats.

As for the Patriots’ organization, no tears can be shed over this latest setback. There will be plenty of time for reminiscing when all is said and done. For now, they need to focus on how they are going to replace such a transcendent talent. In the words of Belichick himself, “Next man up.”