Still In Gronk Withdrawl

June 24th, 2024

So many summer savings are flowing at Bill Currie Ford! That’s new and used vehicles, and don’t forget to ask GM Sean Sullivan for the Ira Kaufman discount. Pick-up, delivery and loaner vehicles are available for service appointments.


Rob Gronkowski left the NFL two years ago, taking the Buccaneer offense with him.

Ticketed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2027, Gronk tilted the field with receiving and blocking skills that set him apart from peers at the tight end position. He came out of retirement in 2020 to join Tom Brady in Tampa — and it proved to be a championship partnership once again.

This Buc offense simply hasn’t been the same since Gronkowski called it quits for good on June 21, 2022., five months after that brutal playoff loss to the Rams. Gronk caught four passes for 85 yards in that setback, including a 42-yard reception in the second half as Tampa Bay tried to rally from a 27-3 deficit.

The Bucs boasted a balanced, powerful attack during Gronkowski’s two seasons in pewter as he caught 100 passes for 1,425 yards and 13 TDs in 28 games.

That doesn’t include the two times he reached the end zone in the Super Bowl rout of the Chiefs.

“It is always difficult to see a great player walk away from the game when he is still enjoying that kind of success,” Jason Licht said upon Gronkowski’s retirement. “But the overwhelming emotions I feel today are gratitude and respect for one of the greatest tight ends who ever played the game.”

Licht, Todd Bowles and the Glazers didn’t know it at the time, but Gronkowski’s departure would prove disastrous for Tampa Bay’s offense.

The Bucs averaged 30.8 points during their 2020 championship season, ranking third in scoring and seventh in total yards. They posted 23 points or more in 14 of 16 games. The next season, Tampa Bay averaged 30.1 points, second in scoring and second in total offense. The Bucs scored at least 24 points in 14 of 17 games before Gronk turned in his uniform for the last time.

Red Zone Plunge

The post-Gronk era has seen a monumental downturn on the scoreboard.

Tampa Bay’s 18.4 average ranked 25th in 2022 and last year (20.5) wasn’t much better as the Bucs finished 20th. More alarmingly, in their last 34 regular-season games, the Bucs have topped 20 points only 13 times.

The biggest culprit? Red-zone futility.

With defenses committing substantial resources to contain Gronkowski, the Bucs finished seventh in red-zone scoring in 2020 and No. 2 in 2021. That ranking plunged to 22nd in 2022 and 30th last season, prompting Buc Nation to see red.

Liam Coen will try to succeed where Byron Leftwich and Dave Canales failed the past two years. And although Cade Otton made some critical catches down the stretch last season, it’s ludicrous to think any tight end on this roster can come close to filling Gronk’s cleats.

Gronkowski’s retirement at age 33 wasn’t shocking … but it has been eventful. He ended his NFL career with 65 TD grabs in the red zone and his very presence created opportunities for others inside the 20.

There’s more: unlike many modern-era tight ends, Gronkowski was a willing and punishing blocker. Since Gronk’s departure, the Buc running game has ranked last in each of the past two seasons.

Multiple improvement areas for Pro Bowler Baker Mayfield.

Gronkowski’s not coming back, so now it’s Coen’s responsibility to resurrect a dormant ground game without No. 87.

Beyond his numbers and blocking prowess, there were intangibles. Gronkowski exuded confidence and joy on the football field and in the locker room. His outsized personality helped young teammates grow into champions.

Baker Mayfield never had the chance to throw Gronk a pass — and he never will. Somehow, some way, Mayfield and Coen have to jump-start a listless offense that failed to register a single touchdown on 17 opening possessions in 2023.

Two years have gone by and Gronkowski still looms as the missing link to a once-prolific offense. He had fun playing the game and he played it so well.

It’s time to fill that huge void at One Buc Place and follow the red brick road to the end zone.

30 Responses to “Still In Gronk Withdrawl”

  1. Weebs10 Says:

    Did any Bucs attend Tight End U?

  2. D-Rok Says:

    Loved watching me some Gronk. I’m still SHOCKED what a great blocker he was.

  3. Hodad Says:

    It wasn’t just Gronk that made it go, it was A.B.. Having that three headed monster at receiver made life easier for Gronk, and everybody else. Maybe we have that again with drafting McMillan, and Coen’s scheme. There will never be another Gronk, but I think Otton is a player on the rise.

  4. infomeplease Says:

    That was an awesome team! Gronk will be remembered in Tampa Bay! Hopefully these younger guys do a whole lot of Gronk tape study!

  5. Beeej Says:

    How many red zone corner fade routes did we throw to Evans last year? It never seemed to be an option

  6. Matt_PcAfee Says:

    I doubt Culp will make it to the final roster cuts..

  7. heyjude Says:

    Excellent article.

    Love Gronk! Hard to replace, that is for sure. On and off the field, his energy, passion, and great character are simply the best. I have respected him since he was on the Patriots. Will never forget all of our joy when the Bucs signed him too. Yes, it is unfortunate that Baker never got to throw him a pass, but we are looking at a strong roster alongside Coen and Baker and will see the red zone many times this season.

  8. Joe Says:

    Did any Bucs attend Tight End U?

    Didn’t see Cade Otton or Payne Durham in clips. Doesn’t mean they didn’t go. Do know Otton did not attend last year (at least that’s what he told Joe).

  9. OrlandoBucFAn Says:

    Losing Gronk and Jensen killed us in 2022. The last two drafts, I have been hoping (praying) the Bucs would take a difference maker at tight end. The jury is still out on Otton, but last’s year’s draft had several good ones, such as LaPorta, Kincaid, Mayer, and Musgrave. We drafted Payne Durham. I was hoping for Darnell Washington. He won’t catch a ton of passes, but the dude would be a force with his blocking. I wish the Bucs would take the tight end position more serious.

  10. Alanbucsfan Says:

    You can’t replace Gronk any more than you can replace Derrick Brooks.
    This Bucs team has their own identity and it will be fun to watch them evolve with an underrated Head Coach, a brash, cocky QB with weapons and an improved OLine and a fast and deliberate Defense that will be surprisingly good with the new talent.

  11. SlyPirate Says:


    I like Otton’s attitude. Cade said he’s working hard to be a Pro Bowl candidate.

    Like Gronk, Cade is a big man at 6-5, 250lbs. Look at his year-to-year growth.
    2022: 42 rec, 392 yards, 2 td
    2023: 47 rec, 455 yards, 5 td
    2024: 52 rec, 518 yards, 8 td (projected)

    What did Gronk do in 2020?
    45 rec, 623 yards, 7 td

    Go Cade!!! Go Bucs!!!

  12. SlyPirate Says:

    Cade Otton love aside, the Bucs need to draft Oregon’s Terrance Fergusen next year. Absolute BEAST!!!! He is Gronk. Considering the tight end coach is a former Duck, I like the chances.

  13. Lt. Dan Says:

    I don’t know Ira. I think it’s too simplistic to blame the drop in offensive numbers on just one guy retiring. BA was calling plays, AB was doing his thing, of course TB12 was well….TB12 until his final uninspired year.

  14. Bojim Says:

    Thought he had nothing left when we signed him. Man was I wrong.

  15. Oddball Says:

    I think it was Wirfs who was quoted that he was amazed that Gronk would be laughing while he was blocking dudes. Wish I could have seen him mic’d up laughing at Cam Jordon.

  16. Dave Pear Says:

    BA also retired when Gronk did. Give or take a month or two.

    If BA were still the head coach, no way the offense would suck as much as it has under Todd.

  17. Cobraboy Says:

    Two of the greatest Bucs seasons ever.

    I will forever appreciate Rob Gronkowski and hope he becomes a Buc fixture for many years to come.

  18. unbelievable Says:

    Let’s add in details of the full story:

    The Bucs lost Gronk, Marpet, Jensen and Cappa in the same offseason.

    THAT is why the offense fell off a cliff.

  19. SenileSenior Says:

    My first reaction, the current bar is set lower than when Gronk was here. That is ok. We are still in the process of retooling which started in 2022.

    As a fan I am grateful that Gronk graced our team with his presence.

    Grrrrr! I hate this spell checker. Is there a way to shut it off?

  20. SenileSenior Says:

    It corrected and filled-in for me several time when I abbreviated Gonkowki’s name. 😡

  21. bucsince79 aka bumaneer Says:

    We sure had lighting in a bottle here in TB for a few years…

  22. teacherman1983 Says:

    Gronk dominated the best defensive ends in the game.

    He was like an elite OT. No joke.

    But all that blocking hurt his back.

    Watch the replays. The way his back bends when he blocks.

    He also had the broken ribs when the Rams cheap-shotted him. Blind sided him. Lame hit. The Rams beat the crap out of us in that game. That hit may have put an end to Gronks career. He was like Brady. Tired of getting hit.

    He’s one of the ten greatest NFL players of all time.

    Kelce can’t block for ish. Gronk and Gonzalez are the two best tight ends of all time.

    I wish Gronk would come back for one more ride.

    Maybe he feels fresh and healed up.

    Offer him the highest paid TE contract in the NFL. He’ll consider it.

  23. Dave Pear Says:

    Gronk completely shut down Chase Young in the WFT playoff game, the one where Todd’s defense made Taylor’s Heinekens look like Patrick Mahomes.

  24. garro Says:

    As always Ira, you put things in the proper perspective for all of us here at JBF. We miss Gronk more than most understand.

    So far we have failed miserably to replace him.

    Go Bucs!

  25. RGA Says:

    It also has something to do with QB play. They guy Brady was pretty good.

  26. RGA Says:

    That guy Brady

  27. gotbbucs Says:

    Gronk was surely missed, but what this team hasn’t recovered from that fits into that same timeline is Cappa signing in Cincy, Marpet retiring early, and Jensen’s knee exploding all in that same offseason. We haven’t fully replaced any of those three yet. Mauch has a chance I suppose, and obviously so does Barton, but you can’t lose those three in the middle of your offensive line and expect the offense to be anything close to what it was.

  28. Nick2 Says:

    Ira avid listener to your podcast and I wanted to run something by you. I saw the piece on here and then was excited to hear the podcast question why Tom Brady deliberately refuses to talk about the Bucs even when asked a pointed question by Cowherd bringing up the Bucs O line and I think I have a good guess and I want your take. We all know Tom Brady wanted desperately to be an NFL part owner (as he now is in Vegas) and before dealings with Miami he supposedly approached the Glazers about part iownership. The runor was the Glazers had no interest and at the time I thought it would be great to lock the GOAT into lifelong partnership. He was told no and we all know what happened in Miami. I think he’s miffed the Glazers wanted no part of him as part owner and Brady refuses to mention or promote the Bucs for that reason? Your thoughts???? Love the podcast I listen to every episode it’s EPIC!!!

  29. Obvious Says:

    I don’t believe we’ve actually attempted to replace Gronk. Come on. NEC! Just NEC! We lost WAY to much on the D fence and have been attempting to fix it first and since. FINALLY this year we’ve Started to fix the Offense. So maybe….. Just Maybe next season we’ll see someone or two SPECIAL drafted for our Offense next chance possible.

    In fact, Those ARE the Odds

    This is ONLY IF a couple of these young ends ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING SPECIAL.

    As always, We WILL See.

  30. Ringer Says:

    Gronk was the key ingredient to our scoring. I don’t recall specifically when, but there was a stretch of games during 2020-2021 seasons when he was out injured and I recall the offense sputtering. I thought we missed him badly on offense and especially in red zone.