Rob Gronkowski announced on Sunday via Instagram (@gronk) that he is hanging up his cleats. Gronkowski retires with 15 records all to himself. The most notable of the bunch are as follows:
• Most receptions by a TE in Super Bowl history (23)
• Most receiving yards by a TE in Super Bowl history (297)
• Most receiving touchdowns by a TE in a season (18)
• Most seasons with 10+ TD by a TE (5)
• Only TE to have three seasons with 10+ TD and 1,000+ yards
• Only TE with 1,000+ career postseason yards
Also, Gronk shares 2 records with other Hall of Famers (most TD in first two seasons – 28, most seasons of 1,000+ receiving yards – 4).
The men with which he shares those records? Randy Moss, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. Pretty good company, huh? In order to honor the best to ever do it, here are the best memories from each season of Gronk’s 9-year career.
2010: 3 TD performance against Pittsburgh in the ‘Steel City’
In his rookie year, Gronk burst onto the scene as an immediate star. New England came into Pittsburgh after suffering a shocking loss to the Browns a week prior. Tom Brady connected with Gronkowski 5 times in the game, three of them being for touchdowns. It would be the first time, but certainly not the last, that Gronk would put on a clinic in his illustrious career.
2011: Somersault vs. KC
In 2011 Gronk would put together one of the best season by a tight end that the NFL has ever seen, finishing with 90 receptions, racking up 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. However, none of those 17 touchdowns were more memorable than his 10th of the season, when he went flipping and tumbling into the endzone against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. It was one of the more iconic moments of his career.
2012: A Buffalo Beatdown
A season in which defenses finally started to develop a strategy for how to slow down Gronk. He was held to just 14 catches in the first three weeks of the season but, in a week 5 matchup in Buffalo, Gronkowski broke through for a 5 reception, 104-yard performance and a touchdown. New England went on to win 52-28 to get their record back to .500 at 2-2. While this game might appear average when you look at his career as a whole, at the time, this outburst reassured everyone that Gronk was indeed, back.
2013: 24-0 Comeback over Manning
On Sunday Night Football in week 12 of the 2013 season, Peyton Manning led the Broncos into Foxboro and got off to a red-hot start. Denver got out to a 24-0 advantage, and it appeared New England would be blown out on their home turf. However, fear not, as the Patriots have a certain someone known as Tom Brady. He led the charge, dispersing the ball to everyone including Gronk, who hauled in 7 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in the comeback effort. While it wasn’t a “signature” Gronk game, any win over Peyton Manning is worthy of being on the list.
2014: First Super Bowl Triumph/One-Handed Grab
Gronk’s 2014 season wasn’t his best by statistical standards, but is the one that will stick with fans because it was the first time since 2004-05 that the Patriots brought home a Lombardi Trophy. On the way to the Super Bowl, Gronk made what was thought of by many as the best catch they’ve ever seen against the Broncos in week 9. Gronk was running a crossing route to the endzone, and the throw from Brady was well behind him, but he extended his arm and brought the ball back towards his body and hung on while being hit by a trio of Denver defenders. 10 weeks later in the Super Bowl, Gronk would catch 6 passes from the game’s MVP Tom Brady for 68 yards and a monstrous touchdown that would help New England capture the NFL’s ultimate prize.
2015: 4th & 10 @Den
The Patriots were in the midst of their 8 straight AFC Championship game appearance streak in 2015 when they traveled to Denver where they have had known struggles. The Broncos defense wreaked havoc on Tom Brady all afternoon long. Even though New England fell short, there was one play in this game that could have changed everything. On a desperation drive, the Patriots were faced with a 4th & 10 situation late in the fourth quarter. Brady was being pressured and heaved the ball downfield to Gronkowski who was double covered. Of course, Gronk came down with it for a 40-yard reception that kept the Patriots season alive. The Patriots scored to cut the deficit to 20-18, but the 2-pt conversion was batted down and the Broncos went on to Super Bowl 50.
2016: Gronk welcomes Brady back in Cleveland
2016 was a great year for the Patriots, capturing their fifth Lombardi Trophy in a thrilling OT victory over the Falcons after trailing 28-3. Gronkowski was on the sidelines watching and cheering his teammates on after a back injury forced him to sit out from week 12 on. However, after a 4-game suspension for the Deflategate scandal, Tom Brady returned to action in Cleveland and connected with his favorite target 5 times for 109 yards in the game on the way to a rout of the abysmal Browns 33-13. The win would set the tone for New England to go 13-1 the rest of the season, including the Super Bowl LI triumph.
2017: Gronk Shines in Pittsburgh yet again
A game late in the season that would determine who would take home the AFC’s #1 seed in the playoffs was a game that the Patriots relished. Brady and Gronk were made for these moments, and they delivered. Gronk would haul in 9 passes for a whopping 168 yards, his highest total of the season after racking up 147 the week prior in a win over divisional rival Buffalo. Brady went to Gronk on the go-ahead drive on three straight plays, all of which gaining over 15 yards that put New England in the red zone. New England sealed the win when Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger ran a desperation fake spike to try and catch new England off guard and the ball was batted up and fell into the waiting arms of safety Duron Harmon.
2018: Gronk kicks off the year with a bang
While 2018 was a “down year” for Gronk considering he didn’t make a huge impact on the box scores, he had much more of an impact on the more prominent New England running game. However, in week one of the season against the Texans, Gronkowski would finish with 7 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown. It was the first of just three all year for the Canton-bound tight end. New England would go on to win the game 27-20.
Agree with the list? Were there any you would replace or add? Let me know in the comments!
-Brendan Howe is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @BrendanHowe13