|Bill Belichick: Rob Gronkowski is ‘similar’ to Mark Bavaro||12.24.10 at 2:57 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had some Christmas reflections on one of the best tight ends he’s ever coached – Mark Bavaro.
Belichick on Friday compared his rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski to the great Giants tight end he worked with in the 1980s. He did admit that while there are ‘some similarities, rookies like Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have a ways to go to be in that class.
“He [Bavaro] isn’t in the [top echelon], that is it,” Belichick said of the best blocking tight end he’s ever been around.
Listening to Belichick, Bavaro – the native of Winthrop, Mass. and Danvers High School product – should be in Canton – Canton, OH that is – as in Hall of Fame.
“The best I’ve seen,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that any player can learn from watching Mark play but again, the big thing about Mark was his overall consistency: his practice, his meetings, his preparation and how consistent he was as a player in everything that he did, whether it was catching balls after practice, working on his run-blocking, his pass protection, his route running. He and [Phil] Simms would stay after practice and spend a lot of time on various routes and certain coverages and just working on their timing. So they had a real good feel for each other.
“It is a tough position to play because you have a lot of things going on. You have guys in front of you, outside of you, inside of you coming at you from a lot of different angles and it’s not like playing on the perimeter where you’re dealing with a lot fewer people. At that position you have to release off of the line of scrimmage and you’ve got to get into your route, you have blocking adjustments to make against teams playing different fronts. There is a lot less variation the further out you get from the formation. Whether it be in the running game or the passing game, that’s a tough spot to play.
Performing at a high level year after year in the 80s, highlighted by Super Bowl XXV, is what Belichick probably appreciates the most about Bavaro.
“I would say Mark’s overall consistency of all of the things he did well, and there’s a lot of them, his consistency was outstanding. There weren’t many plays that weren’t good ones from him, whatever they were, [in] practice, show team, games, preseason, training camp, playoffs, it didn’t make any difference. The worst play of his might have been the pass he dropped that [Phil] McConkey caught in the Super Bowl. That might have been his worst play.”
Asked if he could see some of Bavaro in rookie Gronkowski, Belichick said, “Yes, there are some similarities. Size, blocking, receiving. They have a little bit of the same body type and playing style. I think there are some similarities. ”
But then he put those comments in perspective as he always does. Asked if Gronkowski is perhaps a bit more athletic, Belichick paused.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Mark [was] pretty athletic. I’d say they are similar.”
Given that Gronkowski (7) and Hernandez (6) have 13 TDs between them, is this maybe the best group of tight ends Belichick has coached with the Patriots?
“I think these guys have a chance,” Belichick said. “Aaron and Rob are young players that have a good future ahead of them. How that all develops we will have to wait and see. You know, Mark Bavaro, [we’re] talking about a pretty good football player now. Guys that have played a few, less than 20 games, I think that’s a little stretch to compare anybody to a guy like Bavaro, but Bavaro had a great career and he played against some of the all-time greats. He would line up against Reggie White twice a year. White’s playing six technique, head up on the tight end and really doesn’t get much help.”
Belichick was – of course – the defensive coodinator and coach on those Giants teams and got an up close and personal look at Bavaro’s work as his guys tried to contain him in practice.
“You know that is a pretty big assignment, so, I think I’d be reluctant to put too many of anybody in Mark Bavaro’s class,” Belichick said. “I don’t mean that in any way to slight our players. I am just saying that you’re putting the bar up there pretty high. He could block, he could catch, he could run, he could run after the catch. He was a great competitor. Mark was there every single week, that’s a guy you can count on all the time. We lined up every year in training camp and he would block [Carl] Banks and [Lawrence] Taylor, and not too many guys [could] blocked them so talking about competitive battles, if you like football, that was about as good as you could find right there: Bavaro, Banks and Taylor squaring off. That was fun to watch.”
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