The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ road to consecutive Super Bowl appearances likely goes through Green Bay, but Tom Brady and company are riding the momentum of a 7-1 finish to the NFL regular season. If the Bucs stumble out of the NFC playoffs in defense of their league championship, it won’t be over a lack of attention to detail.
Brady demonstrated that much in NFL Week 18, and Rob Gronkowski is $500,000 richer because of it.
Rob Gronkowski picked up $1 million in incentives in Week 18
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tuned up for the NFC playoffs by pulverizing the Carolina Panthers, 41-17. Tom Brady completed 29 of 37 attempts for 326 yards and three touchdowns in further erasing the anomaly of the 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 19, the only blemish on Tampa Bay’s record since mid-November.
Winning the game gave Tampa Bay the No. 2 seed in the NFC, assuring the Buccaneers a second home playoff game should they dispatch the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Once the victory was all but assured, coach Bruce Arians had one more goal: avoid injuries to key personnel.
Tom Brady had an additional objective, however. The future Hall of Fame quarterback wanted to make sure longtime teammate Rob Gronkowski picked up an easy $500,000 bonus. Gronk had picked up that much early in the day by going over 750 receiving yards for the season, but there was still the matter of booking the other half-million the tight end could earn by reaching 55 receptions for the year.
Sure enough, Brady hit Gronk for his seventh catch of the day and 55th of the season to trigger the second incentive. How it happened is a story in itself that reminds the football world how Brady lured his friend out of retirement to win another Super Bowl together last year.
Tom Brady’s determination got Rob Gronkowski paid
The Buccaneers were already up two touchdowns on the Carolina Panthers midway through the fourth quarter, and Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians wanted backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert to finish out the game. However, Tom Brady had other ideas. With the Bucs getting the ball back on a change of possession, Brady shouted to Gabbert to stay on the bench.
“You’re not taking me out. Let’s see who has more power, Brady or Arians,” CBS analyst Tony Romo joked as he called the game.
Brady ran onto the field to throw a quick out to Rob Gronkowski on the left sideline for the 55th catch, triggering the bonus. Then, Arians confirmed that he is in fact in charge, sending Gabbert onto the field in place of the seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Nevertheless, Brady’s gesture reminds us of the role he undoubtedly played in bringing Gronkowski to Tampa Bay. Gronkowski had retired at 29 years old after the 2018 season with the New England Patriots, citing the physical toll from 521 regular-season catches and 79 TDs in nine seasons.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick couldn’t persuade Gronk to return, and he sat out all of 2019. It says everything about their relationship that Gronkowski allowed Brady to talk him into coming to Tampa Bay when the QB left New England after that season.
Brady remembered Gronkowski’s sacrifice. He was determined Sunday to see him paid for it.
This wasn’t a first by Tom Brady
Rob Gronkowski has made more than $70 million in salary in his NFL career, but he was appreciative of picking up the extra $500,000 bonus midway through the fourth quarter.
“The Buccaneers are a great organization, putting me in a position where I can hit those incentives, which is awesome,” he said, according to Pro Football Talk. “I love playing here. I love playing for this organization. It’s cool to hit those.”
Gronkowski plans to pay his good fortune forward a bit by taking the Bucs’ tight ends to dinner. He added that he’d bring the quarterbacks, too, joking that it would only be the backups, though.
Brady undoubtedly got a laugh out of the remark. He knows Gronkowski is genuinely appreciative of their friendship. That’s more than he can say about Antonio Brown, the wide receiver who walked off the field during Tampa Bay’s Week 17 game leading to his release.
Brown made subsequent remarks trashing Brady, conveniently forgetting that the QB fed him three shovel passes in the 2020 season-finale that allowed the receiver to reach 45 catches for the year and earn a $250,000 bonus, according to NBC Sports.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.