By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Sports rock. For the most part. They’re fun.READ MORE: Tom Brady Jokes That His NFL Career Can Now Legally Drink Alcohol
And while the athletic happenings are more than enough entertainment all on their own, we still must admit that some juicy storylines can add some compelling drama. And when that juicy juice is extra juicy-juicy, even the most straight-faced no-nonsense sports fan can’t help but get sucked in.
And the latest tidbit on Rob Gronkowski’s brief foray into free agency would certainly qualify as one of those moments. According to Mike Silver, Gronk briefly contemplated returning to his hometown of Buffalo.
Before re-signing with the Bucs, Rob Gronkowski considered a similar offer from the Bills… his hometown team. I'd expect the Bills to add a tight end at some point.
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) March 16, 2021
That. Would. Have. Rocked.
For one, Rob is kind of the perfect Buffalo guy. Though the fan base spent the better part of a decade hating him, on account of him and Tom Brady dominating the Bills twice every year, it would take all of five minutes for Gronk to win them over with some fresh Bills-themed Zubaz and that infectious cackle. After all, who says you can’t go home? (Blasting Bon Jovi for Gronk’s first game at Orchard Park would surely irk a certain coach in the division.)READ MORE: J.C. Jackson Signs Tender To Stay With Patriots
Speaking of one Mr. Bill Belichick, that dynamic would be fascinating to see playing out twice this upcoming season. While the two would say all the right things leading up to both games, we know there’d be a little something driving each of them for those head-to-head matchups. In case you forgot, Belichick tried to trade Gronkowski to Detroit in March of 2018, when the Patriots were coming off the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles and Gronk was kind of … doing Gronk things and not really committing to the Patriots. He threatened to retire, rather than go play for the Lions, and he and the coach patched it up for one last go-round. (It worked out; Gronk was critical in the AFC title game win in Kansas City, and then he made what was essentially the game-winning play in Super Bowl LIII vs. the Rams.)
After that, Gronkowski quit. He said football wasn’t fun anymore, so he retired before his 30th birthday. But as soon as Tom Brady left Foxboro and signed with Tampa Bay, Gronk was in love with football again. Belichick agreed to trade Gronkowski rather than keep him in contract jail, so clearly, Belichick wasn’t overly upset about Gronkowski’s change of heart. Still, watching the rejuvenated tight end win a championship with Brady — catching two touchdowns in the Super Bowl, no less — had to have stirred up some emotion in Belichick. (That is, provided he watched the game. He might have just waited for the all-22 on that one. The Bucs are on the schedule in 2021 after all.)
Interestingly, local fans might have been quicker to turn on Gronkowski than they were on Brady. This wasn’t a scientific study or anything like that, but when talking to Patriots fans before Super Bowl LV, most of them felt fine about Brady succeeding somewhere else but felt a little offended by Gronkowski springing back into action for another team.
But the Bucs? No Patriots fan has had a single thought about the Bucs in their lives prior to 2020. Gronkowski joining the Bills? At a time when the Bills are coming off a division crown and the Patriots are trying to pick themselves up off the mat? Golllllllly, the feelings would have been ferocious.
In any event, that Pats-Bucs game at Gillette figures to be the most significant reunion event of the 2021 season, as Tom Brady will come back to his old stomping grounds to face his former team. That will be plenty juicy, sure. And Gronkowski will be there, too.
It’s just … the all-world tight end joining a divisional rival, going head-to-head with the Patriots twice? That would have been pretty sweet. The lead-up, the hype, the press conferences, the pregame and postgame meetings, any potential mid-game encounters, it all would have made for spectacular theater. (Remember that shot that NFL Films caught in 2003, when Belichick and Bill Parcells locked eyes from opposite end of the field before that Sunday night Cowboys-Patriots game? That was the good stuff.)
Alas, the sunshine, smiles, and $10 million payday down in Tampa was too much for Gronk to walk away from, so we won’t have that soap opera to look forward to in the coming fall. Some folks will say that they wouldn’t have been into it anyway. But they are lying to themselves. This one would have rocked.MORE NEWS: Birthday Messages Pouring In For Bill Belichick's 69th Trip Around The Sun