Like dominos, the three main pillars of the Patriots' second dynasty retired in succession. Julian Edelman was the first to hang up his cleats after the 2020 season. Rob Gronkowski retired for a second and final time last offseason. Tom Brady completed the trifecta when he announced his retirement last week.
Brady and Gronkowski will undoubtedly be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as soon as they are eligible. Edelman's future candidacy, however, is not as certain. In fact, conversations and debates quickly began regarding Edelman's possible Hall of Fame chances shortly after he retired.
When asked about his former teammate's future Hall of Fame chances, Gronkowski offered an objective answer while pointing out the main things that Hall of Fame voters will surely dissect when Edelman's future candidacy is reviewed.
"I would say Julian Edelman is 100% a Hall of Famer with the New England Patriots," Gronkowski said during a one-on-one interview with CBS Sports. "He will definitely be in the Patriots Hall of Fame.
"I would say [the Pro Football Hall of Fame] is up there for debate. ... If his playoff stats were the same stats he had during the regular season, he would 100% be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's going to be up for debate for all the writers to decide if his playoff numbers are deserving enough to get him in the Hall of Fame. But if there was a Hall of Fame for just playoffs, Juilan Edelman would lead the way."
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As Gronkowski alluded to, there is a sizable gap between Edelman's postseason numbers and the numbers he amassed during the regular season. In the regular season, he is 166th all-time in career receiving yards. Edelman's 36 career touchdown catches in the regular season is not among the top 245 all-time. Edelman was never selected to a Pro Bowl, a fact that will be held against him as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned.
Edelman's career in the postseason is an entirely different story. Only Jerry Rice and current Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce have more career receptions and receiving yards in the postseason than Edelman, who caught 118 passes for 1,442 yards in 19 playoff games (15 starts).
More than stats, Edelman big made plays in critical moments while helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls. He caught the game-winning touchdown in New England's win over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX; his diving catch against the Falcons late in Super Bowl LI helped the Patriots complete the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history; and his 10-catch, 141-yard effort earned him MVP honors in the Patriots' win over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
The Hall of Fame has honored players whose playoff success dwarfed their regular season success. The Hall of Famer whose career mostly mirrors Edelman's is Lynn Swann, a fellow former Super Bowl MVP whose heroics in helping the Steelers win four Super Bowls eventually got him a gold jacket and bronze bust after a lengthly wait. But Swann was still able to earn Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors during his career, accolades that eluded Edelman.
Gronkowski is spot-on in his assessment of Edelman's place in the Patriots Hall of Fame. Edelman, Brady and Gronkowski will surely join already inducted former teammates Vince Wilfork, Kevin Faulk, and others in the team's Hall of Fame sometime in the near future.
Gronkowski, who called Super Bowl XLIX the greatest moment of his career, recently partnered with USAA while taking part in their "Recycled Rides" program. Gronkowski and USAA recently gifted US Army veteran Johnny Flores with a new ride. It was the 87th -- which is fittingly Gronkowski's old number -- of 100 vehicles the USAA presented to military families last year.
What an honor to join @USAA to gift this ride to US Army Vet, Jonny Flores. USAA are celebrating 100 years of serving military families by gifting 100 vehicles across the country to military families in need as part of their “Recycled Rides” program. #SaluteToService #USAAPartner pic.twitter.com/jQaKnSVDCP— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) December 13, 2022
"The guy was the man. I loved him," Gronkowski said of Flores. "I've had my fair share of USAA commercials, but this kind of opportunity, where I can actually be a part of the work that they do with veterans is just incredible. And it was an honor to surprise Johnny with a reliable ride. There is nothing like seeing his reaction in person. ... He's going to go out and help other vets because they all stick together, and I love that. It's like a football team.
"He's deserving of it, his family is deserving of it, and I am just grateful to be a part of it."