Patriots say they didn't orchestrate Rob Gronkowski's retirement announcement

Patriots say they didn't orchestrate Rob Gronkowski's retirement announcement

PHOENIX – Robert Kraft wasn’t just the main dish on the media menu this week at the NFL’s Annual Meeting, he was the only dish.

Everyone was going to show up for four days of blather about proposed rules changes to replay, overtime and onsides kicks? No.

I wrote last week that the Kraft story was destined to hijack the week. And it would have. If it weren’t for that meddling Gronk.

Rob Gronkowski’s exquisitely-timed retirement announcement Sunday evening meant Kraft was relegated to side dish.

Gronk’s Instagram post came late enough on Sunday to ensure that Monday would be also devoted to taking the measure of the Gronk.

But it came early enough on Sunday to boot Kraft’s arrival at the meetings and his Saturday statement off the front page for that news cycle.


It focused attention on football and away from the Orchids of Asia Day Spa while giving us a couple dozen angles to explore which have nothing to do with Kraft’s peccadilloes.

It couldn’t have been any better if the Patriots planned it. So, did they? Was the timing orchestrated?

“No,” was the reply that Stacey James, the Patriots VP of Media Relations, gave when I asked him on Monday.

Kraft was Phoenix-bound on Sunday when he received a call from Gronkowski telling the owner he was retiring. After thanking Gronk for all he’d given the team and his work in the community, Kraft asked if Gronkowski was sure he wanted to retire, if the decision was final. Could he change his mind?

Gronk said no, the decision was final and he was at peace with it.

Once Kraft relayed the news, James began reaching out to his staff to plot the best way to release the news. He wanted to get his ducks in a row so that the announcement would be timed to give Gronk his proper due.

While in the midst of a phone conversation about when the news release would be ideal, the person James was talking to said, “Stacey? He just announced on Instagram.”

These meetings are the one time in the offseason when Kraft is front-and-center for a span of days.

Not only was his every move and sighting going to be a story, the reaction of his fellow owners to his plight and what kind of punishment Roger Goodell was planning to mete out were also going to be angles to plumb.

Gronkowski’s retirement further changes the balance of power in the AFC. Sunday night, I asked Mike Tomlin if he wanted to come on TV to give me some perspective on Gronk’s retirement.


“I don’t think I’m the one to ask about that,” he said.

I told him I was half-joking.

“Is he retiring?” Tomlin asked.

Yes. Just announced.

“Awesome!” replied Tomlin.

Dummy me, my initial thought on why Gronk announced Sunday was that he was mucking up the team’s offseason plans.

Mike Reiss of ESPN reported earlier in the day that Jared Cook, unsure about the Patriots plans for him with Gronk still lurking, opted to sign with the Saints instead of the Patriots.

“Enough,” I theorized Bill Belichick saying to Gronk. “We need an answer. Let’s not have this get messy.”

It wasn’t until about two dozen people said to me, with a roll of the eyes, “Nice timing on that Gronk story, huh?” that I realized the “Wag The Dog” scenario that should have been obvious.

You can’t put a price on the benefit Kraft realized because Gronk made his announcement on Sunday. But they are adamant that it wasn’t planned.

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Mind-blowing stat about Tom Brady's Super Bowl success compared to other QBs

Mind-blowing stat about Tom Brady's Super Bowl success compared to other QBs

Tom Brady may have left the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, but New Englanders are still taking time to appreciate the elite 20-year career he had with the Patriots.

Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback in history. While some will argue that others belong in that conversation, Brady's success in the postseason is simply unparalleled.

Not only does Brady have the most Super Bowl titles and postseason wins of any quarterback in NFL history. He also has more second-half touchdown passes in Super Bowls than any other passer has in all their Super Bowl appearances combined, as the "Boston Sports Info" Twitter account pointed out on Sunday afternoon.

That's insanely impressive. But it also makes sense when factoring in Brady's record amount of Super Bowl appearances. Brady has been to nine Super Bowl during his career while no other quarterback has been to more than five (John Elway).

The Patriots will certainly miss Brady's presence as they attempt to get to the postseason for the 12th consecutive year. They'll likely be relying on second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham to be the starter, barring a surprise.

Meanwhile, Brady will attempt to get the Bucs to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. And he'll try to earn them their first Super Bowl victory since Jon Gruden led them to the promised land 17 years ago.

Tom Brady spends Sunday watching Patriots' Super Bowl win over Falcons

Tom Brady spends Sunday watching Patriots' Super Bowl win over Falcons

Tom Brady enjoyed so many incredible moments during his 20-year tenure with the New England Patriots, but it's hard to top Super Bowl LI vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

The Patriots' 28-3 comeback victory will forever be remembered as one of the greatest games in NFL history. While Brady has five other Super Bowl titles on his résumé, this particular one will always hold a special place in the hearts of Pats fans, and in the heart of Brady himself.

Now the new quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brady posted a photo Sunday to his Instagram story of himself reliving one of his most memorable performances.

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Brady continued to share his live reaction to the game, starting with the mood of every Patriots fan when New England found itself down 21-3 at the start of the third quarter.

He did the same when the Falcons extended their lead to 28-3.

Then he gave a shoutout to his former receiver Danny Amendola, who came up clutch with several plays in the game.

And then another shoutout to linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who made the play of the game with his strip-sack of Matt Ryan early in the fourth quarter.

When the Patriots stormed all the way back to tie the game at 28 and send it to overtime, Brady pleaded for captain Matthew Slater to call heads for the coin toss.

(He did).

When James White scampered into the end zone to clinch the unforgettable win, Brady couldn't contain his emotions.

It's only fitting that Brady's viewing of Super Bowl LI comes one day after Patriots fans celebrated the comeback on March 28 (3/28).