Welcome to first and 10, a roundup of all the (mostly) Patriots-related news you need to start your Monday. Grab your coffee and let’s get to it.
Three thoughts on the retirement of the greatest tight end I ever saw...
1. For almost the last decade, you could talk to the most hard-hearted Patriots' hater out there, and they would run down a list of reasons why they didn't like New England. You'd get to Rob Gronkowski, and inevitably, they'd shrug their shoulders and say, "All right. You got me there. Gronk is cool."
One person told me a few years ago: "How can you hate Gronk? The guy hosted a kids' show, for goodness sake."
No one disliked Gronk. Maybe Sergio Brown, but I'm sure at some point, even he got over it. No one enjoyed playing football more than he did, and that came through every day. He was almost always in a good mood. Heck, even when he probably should have been in a bad mood, he was OK. He was fun to cover, and fun to watch. You ran out of adjectives trying to describe him.
2. No offensive skill position player ever tied himself to Tom Brady the way he did. Sure, a lot of guys over the years pledged their allegiance to the quarterback, but I'm not sure any of them really put their money where their mouth was like the tight end. Remember, Gronkowski threatened to quit if the Patriots traded him last offseason."Brady's my quarterback," he said. "I wasn't going anywhere without Brady." In 2014, we heard the closest thing to a teary "That's my quarterback" manifesto when he backed Brady following the "On To Cincinnati" win, saying he wanted to do everything he could to make "12 look like Tom Brady again." He was all in on Brady all the time, and that connection paid dividends for both of them. In the end, he'll retire just 33 catches shy of being Brady's all-time favorite target. (But check out the touchdown column. Yeesh.)
3. His ultimate legacy? His 2011 was up there with Randy Moss' 2007 and the 2004 performance of Corey Dillon as one of the best single seasons I've ever seen. And he is (at the very least) on the short list when you're talking about the greatest tight ends in the history of the game. He's a surefire Hall of Famer. (That speech in five years is going to be a must-listen.) I'm not 100 percent convinced he's done with the game as a player -- these statements from Willie McGinest are certainly food for thought. (Drew Rosenhaus also didn't rule out a 2019 return when he talked to Peter King.) But if he is indeed retired, I'll remember him as one of the best ever, and a guy who made this team a whole lot of fun to cover on a daily basis.
Now, on with the links...
1. Greg has a dynamite piece that looks at Gronkowski as a future Hall of Famer, but someone who may not be done yet. He raises a terrific point -- he covered Brett Favre and Ricky Williams, two stars who retired before eventually coming back. Could Gronkowski do the same?
2. So what's next for the Patriots at the tight end position? There are three tight ends in the draft that are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field. Or do they take a look at the bargain bin of free agents?
3. Miguel delivers an instant look at what the move means from a financial perspective.
4. I've been lucky enough to cover Gronkowski since he first broke into the league as a rookie back in 2010. With that in mind, I rank the top 10 games of his remarkable NFL career.
5. Here's a quick post on his announcement, complete with quotes from Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
6. One last shout-out for my weekend notebook, which details my conversation with Rodney Harrison on a bunch of stuff, including his thoughts on the Patriots' offseason moves. He also has some interesting thoughts on Ty Law's induction into the Hall of Fame.
7. Greg held a weekend Q&A that ran the gamut -- check out the transcript here.
8. The rest of the AFC East was understandably ebullient over Gronkowski's retirement. Jets ownership praised the tight end, but they were thrilled they wouldn't have to worry about him any more. “It’s obviously good news for the Jets," said Jets CEO Christopher Johnson. "But taking a step back, I’m going to miss him as a player, because he’s absolutely magnificent. If I could take a player off this (or that) team, he’s one of (the) top players I wish were a Jet.”
9. Let the debate begin (or continue, as it were). NFL Media asks a bunch of pundits if Gronkowski will be remember as the greatest tight end of all time.
10. We've got a Q&A of our own set for Monday afternoon. Get your questions in now, because it's going to be epic.