Carolina Panthers

Rob Gronkowski has fitting Twitter reaction to Luke Kuechly's retirement

Rob Gronkowski has fitting Twitter reaction to Luke Kuechly's retirement

If Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly needs any advice on how to handle his post-NFL career life, former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski can give him some advice. 

Kuechly became the latest All-Pro player to retire Tuesday when he announced his decision to leave the Panthers in a video.

Many current and former players reacted to Kuechly's surprise revelation, including Gronkowski, who couldn't help making a joke after congratulating the former Boston College star on a great career.


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Gronkowski teased a potential comeback throughout the 2019 season but ultimately decided (at least to this point) to stay retired. Given the injuries Kuechly battled throughout his career, it would be pretty surprising if he thought about coming back to pro football.

When people think of Gronkowski and Kuechly, one play immediately comes to mind.

Kuechly and Gronkowski were entangled in a controversial no-call during the 2013 season when the Panthers escaped with a 24-20 Week 11 win at home over the Patriots.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw a pass into the end zone targeting Gronkowski on the final play of the game, but it fell way short. Gronkowski, however, was clearly being held by Kuechly while the ball was in the air. A flag was thrown but no penalty was called, and Brady showed his frustration by confronting the referee.

With both Gronkowski and Kuechly now retired, perhaps they'll laugh about this play sometime in the near future, if they haven't already.

Curran: Why Josh McDaniels is back and what it means

Browns or bust? Good news for Patriots as Panthers, Giants pass on Josh McDaniels

Browns or bust? Good news for Patriots as Panthers, Giants pass on Josh McDaniels

The Patriots got some good news on Tuesday when it was reported by Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports that the Carolina Panthers were finalizing a deal with Baylor's Matt Rhule to take over their head-coaching gig, followed by Adam Schefter reporting that the Giants were hiring Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge as their next head coach.

From this vantage point, the Panthers gig was the most attractive of the three jobs for which McDaniels was scheduled to interview this week. McDaniels was slated to meet with Carolina first, then the Giants, then the Browns. 

There were a number of factors that made the Panthers job an appealing one. Owner David Tepper, a hedge-fund billionaire going through his first head-coaching search, appeared ready and willing to hand over the keys to the castle to whomever was hired. General Manager Marty Hurney remains in place, but Tepper appears open to adding an assistant GM or chief operating officer into the mix to potentially one day take over for Hurney, who's in his 60s. Perhaps that person will be selected by the next head coach.

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There aren't many contracts hamstringing the team-building process in Carolina, and despite the fact that Cam Newton is dealing with an injury, the Panthers can feel safe in at least preparing itself to invest in The Next Guy at quarterback. If Newton (whose contract is up after next season) is healthy, then a young quarterback could sit a year behind him.

The Giants job appeared to be the least likely destination for McDaniels. General manager Dave Gettleman remains in place, which was the case when McDaniels interviewed there following the 2017 season. Gettleman has made it clear in the past that he'll be making the final call on roster decisions — a scenario which doesn't appear to be changing any time soon. Felt like a non-starter. McDaniels should want control over the roster wherever he ends up.

The only job left — and the one that could end up being the fit for McDaniels is with the Browns. He's from the area. He played college ball at John Carroll University, in Cleveland. He has family there. And after clearing out both GM John Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens, owner Jimmy Haslam appears to have things set up for a head-coach centric operation.

Taking over a talented roster down the road from where he grew up? Not a bad setup for McDaniels, though he could be wary of how Haslam has run things to this point, as Haslam is conducting his fifth head-coaching search since 2012. Additionally, Haslam is reportedly having analytics guru Paul DePodesta run the coaching search. There are conflicting reports out of Cleveland as to how much say DePodesta will have in the roster's direction, making the football operations hierarchy there murky. 

Perhaps McDaniels is simply looking to move on from New England. Maybe he feels like it's the right time.

It's unclear how much longer Bill Belichick will be coaching, so there's no guarantee McDaniels would be given the reins here any time soon. Plus, the Patriots roster could be in line for some serious shakeup. Tom Brady could be moving on. Joe Thuney, the team's best offensive lineman this year, is set to hit free agency.

It was not a productive offensive year for the Patriots in many regards. If McDaniels doesn't think it'll get any better in 2020, he may want to strike while the iron's hot and take an imperfect head-coaching opening because he's not sure when the next will present itself to him.

But the Patriots may be able to entice McDaniels to stay. They could always give him a raise, though he's already well taken care of as a coordinator, reportedly signing a deal that pays him in excess of $4 million after he turned down the Colts job two years ago.

The team could also point out to him that if he turns the Patriots offense into a competent one with a roster in transition — perhaps led by a young, inexperienced quarterback — his stock will be as hot as ever. And even if it's another down year for the Patriots offense, a lowly performance in 2019 didn't hurt McDaniels' value across the league; he had three interviews lined up. That's an indication teams respect his résumé. A second consecutive down year for a rebuilding offense shouldn't erase whatever potential teams currently see in him to be a good head coach.

Beyond the obvious factors, the Patriots would benefit by keeping McDaniels because it would present the organization with a certain level of stability at a crucial position in what feels like it's about to be a period of flux. The Patriots are a team whose offensive line coach will be 72, whose running backs coach is 65, whose receivers coach/special teams coordinator has head coaching interest at both the college and pro levels, and whose front office could lose several of its highest-ranking executives. 

McDaniels is still just 43 years old. He may be ready to move on. If that's the case, he can't be blamed. There are only 32 NFL head-coaching gigs out there. They all carry a certain level of appeal for anyone in the profession with a certain level of ambition. 

But if McDaniels is looking for the perfect opportunity for his second go-round as an NFL boss, neither the Browns nor the Giants jobs appear to fit that description. The Panthers gig was close, but now it's off the table.

McDaniels could still very well leave to head up his hometown team. Still, in an offseason that could be rife with change for the Patriots, the hirings of Rhule and Judge could mean McDaniels will be staying put.

NFL Rumors: What Panthers hiring Matt Rhule means for Josh McDaniels

NFL Rumors: What Panthers hiring Matt Rhule means for Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels reportedly had an interview with the Carolina Panthers set for Tuesday.

Apparently that's not happening.

The Panthers are finalizing a deal to hire former Baylor coach Matt Rhule as their next head coach, Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel reported Tuesday.

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According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Rhule and McDaniels were Carolina's "top two" head coach candidates, but the Panthers were impressed enough with Rhule to lock him up before he interviewed with the New York Giants.

Rhule's pending hire leaves two possible destinations for McDaniels: the New York Giants, who are scheduled to interview him Wednesday, and the Cleveland Browns, who reportedly will meet with him Friday.

In an article Tuesday morning, SNY's Ralph Vacchiano wrote the Giants "really like" the Patriots offensive coordinator, but "they know he might not like them and their power structure."

New York already has an established general manager in Dave Gettleman who currently has final say over personnel decisions. That may be a less enticing setup for McDaniels than the Browns, whose GM spot is vacant after they parted ways with John Dorsey.

That means McDaniels would be able to bring a GM with him to Cleveland, whether that's Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio or a former coworker like Scott Pioli or Dave Ziegler.

In any case, McDaniels' current possible landing spots have been narrowed from three to two -- which also increases his chances of staying in New England another year.