Former NFL tight end Mark Bavaro played for current New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick when he was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, so he understands how much the iconic coach demands from players such as Rob Gronkowski.
Bavaro said that same demanding nature might have played a role in former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's decision to retire and, ultimately, request a trade to rejoin Tom Brady in Tampa Bay (via Rob Bradford of WEEI.com):
Of particular note was Bavaro's response when asked if he could understand a player being worn down by Belichick's coaching style.
“Absolutely, without a doubt,” the Hall-of-Famer said. ” It's not so much Belichick. I say that about Bill Parcells all the time. Bill Parcells was great to play for but I don't know if I could have kept up that pace under him. It was just so demanding. And Bill Belichick is from the same school. There's not a lot of wiggle room for older guys with those two coaches. They expect and demand a lot from their players. There's not a whole lot of fun going on on those teams but there is a lot of winning and that makes it worth it and that makes it great for a short while.”
Gronkowski decided to retire following the 2018 season, but expressed a desire to return to the NFL after Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots subsequently traded “Gronk” to the Bucs in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Though Gronkowski called Belichick the “best coach, hands down, in all of football,” it is reasonable for Bavaro to suggest he wanted a change of pace. After all, Brady had a similar reason for joining the Bucs.
Belichick might ask for a lot from his players, but it is an approach that has netted him six Super Bowls. Of course, he will enter uncharted territory without Brady under center this year, and will have to maximize the talent on the current roster to achieve continued success.