These stats prove just how much the Patriots are missing Rob Gronkowski

These stats prove just how much the Patriots are missing Rob Gronkowski

The New England Patriots' passing attack hasn't been as strong this season as it has been in seasons past. And safe to say, part of that is due to the retirement of Rob Gronkowski.

The long-time Patriots tight end called it quits during the 2019 offseason after a nine-year NFL career. While some have been hopeful that Gronk would return, it seems that he is happy to remain retired at this point in time. And that's bad news for the Patriots.

So far during the 2019 campaign, the Patriots have gotten next to no production from their tight ends. Just how bad has it been? The "Boston Sports Info" Twitter account took a deep dive into the Patriots' tight end numbers since Gronkowski was drafted in 2010, and the Patriots' numbers so far in '19 are their worst over the course of the past 10 years.

The Patriots have gotten just 18 catches for 242 yards and one touchdown out of the tight end position through nine games. All of those numbers are worst (or tied for worst) among the team's totals through nine games since 2010.

Comparatively, other seasons over the last decade have routinely seen the squad record double-digit touchdowns, and there were two occasions (2011 and 2016) that saw the position total over 1,000 yards.

As for the second-worst nine-game start at the tight end position, that came in 2013. At that time, the team had just 29 catches for 397 yards and two touchdowns. However, Gronkowski had only played in three games at that point. And excluding his numbers, the skeleton crew of Matthew Mulligan, Zach Sudfeld, and Michael Hoomanawanui combined for just 10 catches, 113 yards, and a score.

So, it's safe to say that the tight end position has lived and died with Gronk over the course of the past decade. Thus, it's no surprise to see the team struggling to produce without him.

If the Patriots want to get some production out of the tight end position, they're going to need to see one of Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, or Ryan Izzo step up. So far, none has generated much of a rapport with Tom Brady. But with the team lacking pass-catching options in general, perhaps this group will find a way to rebound after a poor start to the season.

If not, the position group will continue to be one of the team's biggest on the offensive side of the ball.

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Joe Montana: Tom Brady hinted at displeasure with Patriots at Super Bowl LIV

Joe Montana: Tom Brady hinted at displeasure with Patriots at Super Bowl LIV

Joe Montana has wondered aloud how the New England Patriots could let Tom Brady get away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Based on the conversation he had with Brady in February, though, maybe he should have seen the QB's exit coming.

During an interview Wednesday on ESPN 97.5 Houston's "Jake Asman Show," Montana revealed he talked with Brady at Super Bowl LIV and got the sense the 20-year veteran didn't like his situation.

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"I spoke to Tom while we were back at the Super Bowl," Montana said. "I don't think he was happy with the way things were progressing there and his ability to have input, and I think that was a big decision for him to make to leave there."

Our Tom E. Curran and others have reported that Brady wasn't thrilled about having less of a say in the Patriots' offensive game plan last season, especially after New England mustered just 13 points in a Wild Card Round loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Montana's recollection of his conversation with Brady -- the two QBs were part of an "NFL 100" pregame ceremony at Super Bowl LIV -- certainly lends credence to those reports and suggests Brady was ready to move on from the Patriots after 20 seasons.

It sounds like the 43-year-old quarterback picked the right destination, too: Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich apparently joked that all he has to do with Brady under center is "get out of the way."

Here's Joe Montana's advice for Tom Brady about Patriots-Bucs transition

Here's Joe Montana's advice for Tom Brady about Patriots-Bucs transition

There's plenty of hype around Tom Brady and the new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season. But there are also those who wonder whether Brady can find success without New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick -- especially at age 43.

Joe Montana has heard that line of criticism before.

Like Brady, Montana left a team he won multiple Super Bowls with (the San Francisco 49ers) at the tail end of his career to join an unexpected new club (the Kansas City Chiefs).

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Montana only lasted two seasons in Kansas City before retiring, but he actually had a strong first year, earning a Pro Bowl nod while leading the Chiefs to an 11-5 record.

So, what advice would the legendary quarterback give Brady as he gets going in Tampa Bay?

During an appearance Wednesday on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football," Montana said Brady should start with earning his teammates' trust.

"Obviously it's a little different right now with the virus in the U.S. and what they're able to do and how he was able to communicate with his new team when he got there. And I think the biggest thing is just finding a way.

"No matter what, there will always be those guys that are even a little skeptical," Montana said. " .. Until you prove that you can do it with them, there will always be (people) skeptical about it. The same thing happened (with me) in Kansas City.

"Once that happens, once you get totally accepted into there -- which I don't think will take long. Tom's not the kind of guy that makes something like that difficult, so I think it's going to be fun to watch."

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Montana's point: Brady's impressive résumé with the Patriots won't matter unless he proves he's bought in with the Bucs and committed to winning with a new group of players and coaches.

Brady started working out with his new Bucs teammates back in May (despite the COVID-19-associated risks) and is drawing rave reviews from Tampa Bay players, so it appears he's off to a good start with his new club.

With a talented group of skill players that includes ex-Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady should have no trouble pulling a Montana, according to the man himself.

"They've got a pretty good team down there," Montana said. "They put up some big numbers last year, and when you add Tom and Crazy Gronk down there, I think it will be interesting."