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Belichick confidante Mike Lombardi's anti-Gronk commentary comes at convenient time

Alex Reimer
September 26, 2018 - 10:19 am

Former NFL executive Mike Lombardi once again appears to be supporting Bill Belichick. 

Over the weekend, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Patriots nearly sent Rob Gronkowski to the Lions for draft picks prior to the NFL Draft. But Gronk threatened to retire, ruining the deal. Predictably, Belichick has been roundly criticized for the reported proposal. In addition to Gronkowski being the best tight end ever, the Patriots have given Tom Brady one of the worst receiving corps of his career. It’s scary to imagine how lackluster this offense would look without Gronkowski lining up. 

Making matters worse, one of the members of the Gronk clan, brother Chris Gronkowski, ripped the Patriots’ offense on “Kirk & Callahan” Tuesday. Chris told us his bro seems “super frustrated” about getting double-teamed and spoke candidly about Gronk’s desire to be treated with more respect. "He wanted to get paid what he deserved (over the offseason),” Chris Gronkowski said. “He wanted to be paid as one of the top tight ends for once. It's been a struggle for him to make that money.”

Later Tuesday, Lombardi, who worked with Belichick in Cleveland and New England –– and had the Hoodie write the forward to his book, “Gridiron Genius,” –– appeared on The Ringer’s GM Street podcast and ripped Gronk’s play so far this season. 

“Gronk doesn’t have the same quickness that he once had,” Lombardi said, per WEEI’s Ryan Hannable. “The great combination of Gronk and Aaron Hernandez — Aaron Hernandez was quick, Gronk was quick and explosive. Gronk is more of a builder of speed now. People are playing for that, so none of those underneath routes really apply to Gronk. It’s got to be throws up the field. That limits what you do offensively and I think that’s the challenge for New England.”

In fairness, Lombardi tore into several other Patriots players, including Dont’a Hightower and Cordarrelle Patterson. But the criticism of Gronkowski is notable, considering nobody else has pointed out his apparent lack of quickness so far. It serves as a convenient counter to the sympathetic Gronk coverage that’s been out there over the last couple of days.

This isn’t the first time Lombardi has seemingly stood on an island to support Belichick. Two years ago, he was one of the few analysts who lambasted linebacker Jamie Collins in the aftermath of his surprise trade to Cleveland. In a series of tweets at the time, Lombardi assassinated Collins’ football character, saying he freelances on defense and is overrated. Lombardi continued his attacks on K&C, opining how the talented linebacker wasn’t playing at a championship level.

As it turns out, Lombardi was more right than wrong about Collins. While the Browns granted him a $50 million contract extension ($26.4 million guaranteed), he only played in six games last season and only has 10 tackles through three games this year. The Patriots won the Super Bowl without Collins as well. They didn’t miss him.

Maybe Lombardi will be proven right about Gronk, too. But the timing of his commentary is convenient. That’s for sure.