As the Houston Texans were reconfiguring their secondary this offseason, allowing safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson to walk in free agency, one big focus in finding their replacement was to locate a safety who excels in covering tight ends. Therefore, they signed former Jaguar Tashaun Gipson, perhaps the best in the league at doing so, and a big part of that signing was done knowing that Rob Gronkowski loomed on the schedule once again this coming season.
Well, after the big announcement below, Gipson and the Texans will have one less tight end to worry about in the 2019 regular season, and that tight end is Gronk:
Rob Gronkowski’s message on Instagram: pic.twitter.com/3rivqRwY8c— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 24, 2019
So the Era of Gronk, and all of its downfield plays and party rocking, is over (for now, at least, more on that in a minute). Here are my four thoughts on the sudden retirement of Rob Gronkowski at the age of 29:
Gronk is the greatest tight end of all-time
I hadn't given a ton of thought to my "all time greatest tight end" list in quite some time, probably not since Tony Gonzalez retired back in 2013. My pick for the best ever at that position has always been former San Diego Charger great Kellen Winslow (not to be confused with his degenerate son, Kellen Winslow II), who oddly enough, is the most similar player statistically to Gronk, per pro-football-reference.com. To me, upon further examination, what shoots Gronk past Winslow (and Gonzalez and Antonio Gates and others), is the following:
Here’s what makes Gronk the greatest TE ever (I’m cherry picking these names, these obviously aren’t the FULL rankings).— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) March 25, 2019
Julio Jones 15.4
AJ Green 14.8
Tyreek Hill 14.6
This is remarkable.
Yes, he averaged more yards per catch than A.J. Green and Tyreek Hill. For further reference, the other tight ends that I mentioned all went like this — Winslow 12.5 yards per catch, Gates 12.4, Gonzalez 11.4.
Gronk was a beast in the postseason
In addition to his regular season greatness (four time first team All Pro), and in addition to being an elite blocker AND pass catcher, Gronk was a linchpin on several Patriot teams that made deep playoff runs, including two Super Bowl champs in 2014 and 2018 (He was injured for the Pats' third Super Bowl during his career, in 2016). His playoff career was, conveniently, a 16 game stretch (same as an NFL regular season) in which he compiled 81 catches, 1163 yards, and 12 touchdowns. In other words, his postseason career was basically the equivalent of a first-team All Pro caliber season.
Hard to believe, Gronk and Aaron Hernandez... well...
Back in 2010, the Patriots used two draft choices on tight ends, selecting Gronk in the second round with the 42nd pick overall, and then using the 113th overall pick (fourth round) on a kid out of the University of Florida named Aaron Hernandez. Here we are, nine years later, and Gronk is retiring amidst great fanfare, hailed as the greatest to ever play his position. Aaron Hernandez died in prison, after possibly killing multiple people. Those two roads — Gronk Street and Hernandez Avenue — certainly diverged in the woods.
What's next for Gronk?
Like most things nowadays, you can find a wager on what Gronk will do next:
Rob Gronkowski - What will he do next?
Fight in WWE 3/2
NFL Commentator 2/1
Host a Podcast 5/1
Play in NFL 10/1
Play in AAF 33/1
Play in XFL 33/1
Male Stripper 50/1
Play in CFL 50/1
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Everybody seems to think that it's a lock he will wind up in WWE, at some point, and I'm virtually certain that WWE has reached out to Gronk to gauge interest, especially with Wrestlemania less than two weeks away. Strangely enough, Gronk already has a Wrestlemania moment on his resume:
The value play is on "Play in the NFL" at 10/1. I think there's at least a 25 percent chance that he plays in the league again after his body is fully healed from nine years of the NFL grind.