Bill Belichick coached on a team that had the original Rob Gronkowski before the modern-day Rob Gronkowski came along. His name was Mark Bavaro. And the New England Patriots head coach said this week that he thinks the former New York Giants tight end should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I think Mark's in a really special category," Belichick said at Tuesday's Media Day session at US Airways Arena. "His toughness, his overall complete play as a tight end and blocker, just as a total competitor was just outstanding. I don't think Mark has ever gotten the recognition that any of us that coached him or played with him know that he deserves."
Belichick, Giants defensive coordinator at the time, said "there were no better battles in my entire career" than watching Bavaro practice against linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks.
Belichick also said Bavaro blocked Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White "better than most tackles blocked him. That alone should put him in the Hall of Fame. This guy was a great football player."
Bavaro, as a pass receiver, was everything Gronkowski is now, at least early in his career before knee injuries slowed him. He was too big, too strong and too fast for the linebackers and safeties who tried to cover him.
Here's an excellent interview Bob Papa did with Bavaro just a couple of years ago.