Rob Gronkowski's stunning return to the NFL and subsequent trade to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had heads spinning on Tuesday. Many, such as Colin Cowherd, are using his demand to be traded from New England to Tampa as proof he had grown tired of Bill Belichick's strict system. In reality, it's clear Gronkowski just wanted to team up with Tom Brady again.
It's a great media angle to create conflict between Brady, Gronkowski, and Belichick. That's a fun debate. But we have little evidence to suggest Gronkowski hated playing under his former head coach. He was a member of the Patriots for nine seasons and signed one big extension and reworked his deal to stay longer. If he was so miserable wouldn't have have opted for free agency or demanded a trade earlier?
This move was clearly all about reuniting with the only franchise quarterback he's ever known. Brady helped make Gronk into one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history. Working with Brady, he became a three-time Super Bowl winner, a five-time Pro Bowler and a four-time All-Pro and solidified his spot as one of the best ever to play the tight end position.
While everyone is commenting on how Gronkowski is a security blanket for Brady, no one is acknowledging that the designation works both ways. Gronk is comfortable with Brady and knows what to expect from him. They've worked incredibly well together for years.
A few months ago Gronkowski appeared done with the NFL. He went on at length about the deleterious effect football had on his body. It likely would have taken a special situation to bring him out of retirement. It's pretty clear that he saw what the Bucs were building around Brady in Tampa and wanted to join up for a run at another title, and another season with his guy.
Yeah, it's fun to imagine Brady and Gronkowski finally wanting to break free of the shackles Belichick had on them. But it's far more likely Gronk just wanted to chase another title with the greatest quarterback in NFL history. And we have no evidence to suggest otherwise. His return was about Brady, not Belichick.