The Patriots scored 59 points against the Colts on Sunday. On the 59th point, Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm. Many people are questioning why Gronkowski was even in the game, but two prominent NFL voices are now defending the move.
Bill Parcells and Steve Tasker told the Buffalo News that leaving Gronk on the unit despite the huge lead is commonplace and that the injury was simply an unfortunate byproduct of the game. Parcells, Bill Belichick‘s mentor, saw nothing wrong with keeping the young star out there.
“I’m going to stick up for Bill Belichick on that,” Parcells told the Buffalo newspaper. “I know what Gronkowski is doing in that game. I had Lawrence Taylor in the game every time at the same position. Fans and media assign the degree of importance that they wish to assign. A coach assigns the degree of importance.”
While Parcells brings the viewpoint of a head coach, Tasker has the take of a special teams player. Tasker played 12 seasons in the NFL and made seven Pro Bowl appearances for his work on special teams, most notably as a punt coverage gunner.
Tasker understands protecting a team’s best players, but when it comes to special teams, he says an inherent risk is involved.
“You don’t substitute for a guy on extra point,” Tasker said. “No question it’s unfortunate he got hurt. But the reaction has been ridiculous. Even if he was benched and they had Tom Brady out and Wes Welker on the sideline and they had decided to pack it in and furl the sails, you don’t have backups for the extra point. All of those No. 1 offensive linemen have to go back out there and protect.”
Tasker also talked about the depth of personnel involved in the special teams game. He said the 46-man active roster needs to account for 66 different special teams positions on kickoffs, kick returns, punts, punt returns, field goals and field goal blocks. With that many players needing to get on the field, big-name players will inevitably be put in the line of fire.
“You’re going to have to use the best guys available. You’ve got starters sprinkled in there, and you try to get maybe 10 snaps a game out of those guys,” Tasker said. “You need to give a break to the other 44 guys who are trying to run 60 yards and tackle or drop back 30 yards and block.”
But what if Belichick had simply subbed Gronk out for someone like Visanthe Shiancoe? Parcells isn’t buying that idea, either.
“Let’s say you put that guy in there, and he doesn’t do his job,” the two-time Super Bowl winner said. “And let’s say a rusher comes free, and your kicker kicks, and the rusher hits the kicker in the knee, and he’s out for the year. How’s that?”
Football comes down to consistency, and sometimes consistency comes with a steep price. Gronkowski is expected to miss between four and eight weeks, setting up a possible return for the playoffs.