The New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants, this we know. This was New England’s game. They were favored coming into the weekend by 3 points. Yet, how did it come to be that they lost? For starters, New York came to play. The Giants’ defense came into its own during the playoffs and had a complete turnaround from the regular season, as did New England’s. Second and more important, New England had a key component injured in the AFC championship game. It was declared after this game that the injury was a high ankle sprain, an injury that has previously affected the likes of Maurkice Pouncey, Ben Roethlisberger, and Sam Bradford.
Rob Gronkowski, of the Patriots, was the latest to be affected. Gronkowski ended up missing almost two weeks worth of Super Bowl practices and walk-throughs due to the bum ankle. Pouncey was actually held out of the previous Super Bowl due to the injury to his ankle while the Steelers lost to the Green Bay Packers. Roethlisberger has played a couple times on a bum ankle and each time has let the injury get the better of him. Gronkowski’s injury was suffered when playing against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. Throughout the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Gronkowski was not allowed to practice as he was walking with a boot. The last couple of days prior to the Super Bowl, he had a limited role in practices.
Gronkowski was perhaps New England’s most valuable player in the regular season. He put up record setting numbers for a tight end with the most receiving touchdowns for a TE (17) and the most receiving yards by a TE (1,397). Of course, the Patriots would be looking to use him in the Super Bowl. When he suffered the injury against the Broncos, he left but came back, and finished the game and did not play much of a role as New England coasted to victory. However, the injury would prove to be costly.
It was obvious that Gronkowski was not 100%. He was slow off the ball, very indecisive in his cuts, and was not able to get any air under his jumps. There were several times where linebackers were able to match up and even take him away as a target, something that is difficult to do when he is healthy. It was obvious that Gronkowski was not himself when Tom Brady floated a pass down the field for him and Chase Blackburn, of the Giants, came down with it. With Gronkowski’s skillset, that pass at the very least would have been batted down, if not caught, if he were not preoccupied with his injury. The mere fact that Blackburn stayed with him down the field is testament to how badly the ankle took Gronkowski out of his element.
But one question remains: Exactly how bad was the ankle? Gronkowski was seen and videotaped hours later, dancing around a club with several of his teammates and even taking his shirt off. If he could not even make a cut on a turf field, how does he manage to jump around and dance like a fool? It’s one thing to go out and drink with your teammates after losing the biggest game of your career, but it’s a completely different idea when you lose the biggest game of your career because your role in the offense is limited due to an injury and you are seen hours later jumping and dancing around as if the injury had no impact on anything.
Rodney Harrison, ex-Patriot safety, has even publicly come out and called out Gronkowski for his “immaturity.” It just shouldn’t happen. Cris Carter, ex-Viking receiver, interviewed on Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPNRadio, and defended Gronkowski for being able to “compartmentalize” losing the Super Bowl and the rest of his life. However, both of these ex-players are missing the point. Gronkowski is allowed to party, he’s old enough. He’s allowed to have fun after losing a game, because it is just a game. Either way he gets paid. The only thing is, he was dancing and jumping around on an ankle that completely held him back from contributing anything to the Super Bowl.
How does that make him look? If his ankle is good enough to “celebrate” on, then it should be good enough to go out and help win a Super Bowl. Gronkowski is young, but he needs to realize that his actions are going to be scrutinized. Harrison was right in calling out Gronkowski’s immaturity, but for the wrong reasons. It wasn’t for going out and partying after the loss, it was more for the impact his injured ankle had on the game coupled with the lack of impact it had on his partying. You may say that his choice of “beverages” that night aided him, but after losing the biggest game in the history of his career, there is no excuse. His ankle led to him having a diminished role during the Super Bowl; it should have forced him to take a diminished role afterwards.
Will Fairbanks is the owner and contributor to The Educated Sports Fan, a blog offering analysis and opinion for all things MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, and NCAA.