New England Patriots

Feb 5, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski waves to the crowd during the Super Bowl LIII championship parade through downtown Boston. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Feb 5, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski waves to the crowd during the Super Bowl LIII championship parade through downtown Boston. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Rob Gronkowski is rarely criticized for the way he behaved away from the football field during his career. But former NFL exec and SI columnist Andrew Brandt felt the need to go there.

Just for added context, Brandt isn’t just a bloviating hot take artist with no knowledge or insight on the NFL. He served as the Packers’ Vice President of Player Finance and General Counsel from 1999-2008 and he’s written extensively about the “Business of Football” for a long time.

So that arguably makes it more surprising that Brandt would bother scolding Rob Gronkowski as part of his latest column, in a diatribe that had nothing to do with the business of football. He wonders why Gronk got a “free pass” from fans and media – nationally, not just in New England – for his hard-partying lifestyle off the field. Here’s the pertinent passage:

“Listen, I get it; Gronk is a goofy and likeable (sic) meathead. And likeable (sic) players can get away with things that players with a more serious tone cannot. That, however, shouldn’t give them free passes. I ask you to pick another player, any player; I will not pick one for you, as that would skew this experiment. Now imagine that player shown slamming beers, partying regularly with bikini-clad women and generally promoting a hard-party lifestyle. Would we say it’s just ‘him being him’ and let him have his fun? I doubt it.”

Jan 28, 2019; Atlanta, GA: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski during Opening Night for Super Bowl LIII at State Farm Arena. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

The fallacy in Brandt’s attempted takedown is that Gronk doesn’t have the same drawbacks or problems as other players who have exhibited similar off-field behavior. He’s never been accused of a crime, certainly none involving the “bikini-clad women” he referenced. He’s never been caught in any kind of embarrassing scandal, unless you count his photo with former adult film star BiBi Jones. And on the field, his partying didn’t negatively impact his performance. He earned three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots as the best tight end of his generation in spite of everything he did away from the NFL.

That last part leads to perhaps Brandt’s hottest take: “It is a fair question to ask whether Gronk would have been injured less and had a more productive career had he partied less.”

It’s really not a fair question. Partying had nothing to do with Gronk tearing his ACL when T.J. Ward launched his helmet into his knee. It had nothing to do with his back issues that preceded his NFL career, unless you think he really went too hard on the break-dancing. And it definitely had nothing to do with the concussion he suffered when the Jaguars’ Barry Church lit him up in the 2017 AFC Championship Game.

Brandt will probably have to shake his fist at Gronk’s “free pass” for the rest of his life. Gronk produced better than any tight end in the NFL during his career, always showed up on Sundays, and put smiles on many kids’ faces in the community, especially at Boston Children’s Hospital. There’s a reason he doesn’t get as much flak for the way he acts off the field. Because it never hurt anyone or anything.

Except, apparently, Andrew Brandt’s feelings.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.