How important is Gronkowski to New England?
After falling one possession short in a thrilling Super Bowl LII against the eventual champion Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots have spent much of the offseason listening to rumors about tight end Rob Gronkowski. And while it looks like Gronk will stay put in New England, reports of his discontent with the franchise continue to surface. Given the team’s history in the Bill Belichick era, one has to wonder if the Patriots even need Gronkowski anymore?
The current run atop the AFC by the Patriots has been built upon the “next man up” mentality instilled by coach Belichick. His thought process is simple: that players are replaceable and players who put themselves before the team can usually be replaced by someone just as effective who is less expensive and a better teammate. Throughout his career, he has been correct in that line of thinking, as the Patriots have replaced ego with success on many occasions.
Right now, it seems like Gronkowski’s ego is beginning to become a liability for the Patriots. He contemplated retirement shortly after the Super Bowl. He is a notorious party animal. He even drew the ire of Belichick for consulting Tom Brady’s trainer, with whom the team has tried to cut off from being a part of players’ routines. All of this controversy has come for a player who has been injured more often than the rest of the elite tight ends in the NFL.
To add additional intrigue to this question, there is little doubt that the Patriots are one of the few teams in the NFL that could replace a talent like Gronkowski in the draft. Belichick and company have had tremendous success finding value in the draft and could find a younger, cheaper, and healthier tight end of the future if they decided that they wanted to cut bait with the current model.
During the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era, the Patriots have succeeded with a parade of generic skill position players who have managed to fit their system. Now that they have a solid receiving corps and a group of above average running backs, the need for the headaches caused by Gronkowski has diminished significantly.
Also worth keeping in mind is the fact that the Patriots will be the favorites to win the AFC and get back to the Super Bowl according to Super Bowl LIII NFL betting odds, where they’re 5/1 to win outright, whether Gronkowski is there or not. They have proven time and time again that they can win with or without him, so why keep someone who is not fully dedicated to the task at hand?
Time and time again, the New England Patriots have preached The Patriot Way. That one player is not bigger than the team, and that those who think they are bigger than the team can go play elsewhere. By continuing to keep Rob Gronkowski in the fold, the Patriots are weakening their stance on ‘the Patriot way’, for a player that they may not even need to be successful.