After winning their third Super Bowl title in the last five seasons, you’d think it would take a lot to bring the New England Patriots down from their high.
But that’s exactly what happened on March 24.
In an absolutely shocking decision, the Patriots’ star tight end,Rob Gronkowski announced on his Instagram account that he will be retiring from football.
Gronkowski, who isn’t even 30 years old yet, has played in just nine NFL seasons, making his decision even more surprising for football fans.
In just nine years, Gronk has put his name on the list of the best tight ends ever to play the sport.
Gronkowski’s career will end with 521 receptions, 7,861 yards, and 79 receiving touchdowns.
Just to put his numbers into perspective, he ranks 12th all-time in receptions among tight ends, fifth in yards, and third in touchdowns.
This is crazy considering Gronkowski has only played in 115 games in his short career.
But that’s not the most impressive part. In just nine seasons, Gronk was a three-time Super Bowl champion, a five-time Pro Bowler, and named to four First-team All-Pros.
What does Gronk’s retirement mean for the Patriots?
The bottom line is – New England is in trouble.
Over the past few seasons, the Patriots have gotten some good practice at playing without Gronkowski, considering he hasn’t played a full season since 2011.
But to be frank, the Patriots simply aren’t the same team without him.
Sure, Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, but without Gronk, his production just isn’t the same.
With Gronk on the field, Brady has a QBR of 79, which is very impressive. But when Gronkowski isn’t on the field, Brady’s QBR drops down to 63, which is mediocre at best.
Not to mention that Brady throws far more interceptions when Gronk isn’t on the field. When Gronkowski plays, Brady’s touchdown-to-interception ratio is 5.29, but without Gronk, it plummets all the way down to 2.95.
Without Gronk, the Patriots’ best tight end is Jacob Hollister.
Hollister has played in 23 games in his career and has caught eight passes for 94 yards and zero touchdowns.
Yes, you read that correctly – just eight catches for 94 yards.
To put that into perspective, eight catches for 94 yards was a typical game for Gronk.
But the timing of Gronkowski’s retirement could not have come at a worse time for New England.
Gronk prolonged his decision just long enough that all the big-name tight ends who were free agents have already signed elsewhere, meaning the Patriots will have a lot trouble finding a replacement.
Many experts are speculating that the Patriots will try to draft Gronk’s replacement in April’s draft, but even if they do, it’s unlikely that a rookie will have the same impact as one of the best tight ends in NFL history.
Gronkowski has put the Patriots’ offense in quite the predicament.
Other than Julian Edelman, no receiver on the Patriots’ current roster has ever caught for more than 600 yards in a season.
If the Patriots don’t invest in a couple of weapons for Brady this offseason, New England’s future could be pretty dark.
But one thing is for sure: Gronkowski has had one of the most impressive careers of any tight end, cementing himself among legendary tight ends like Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe.
But where Gronk may be missed most is among Patriots’ fans. He will go down not only as one of the best Patroit ever but also one of the most popular players the game has ever seen.