Most of today’s Patriots fans are probably a little too young to remember former tight end Russ Francis.
Francis, who was taken 16th overall in the 1975 draft and played from ’75-’80 here in New England is a former teammate of Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan. In this week’s “Grogan’s Grade”, Grogan compared current tight end Rob Gronkowski to Francis, and said that Francis’ hands “might have been a little bit better” than the third year player out of Arizona.
RRM: You know, a former Patriots tight end, Russ Francis, was sort of the Gronkowski of his era in the 1970’s and one of your favorite targets. I was just wondering is there a danger in becoming too reliant on any one receiver with skills like he has?
SG: There’s a danger if you don’t have other people out there that can make plays for you. If he’s the only guy that’s getting open and catching the ball, you can become too reliant on him but I don’t think Tom Brady has that problem with this offense. He’s got Welker, he’s got Hernandez when he comes back and is healthy, he’s got Lloyd now, he’s very comfortable with Deion Branch, so I think Tom Brady’s the kind of quarterback that’s got so many weapons he’s going to figure out on any given Sunday which guy they’re going to let him have for the day. Sunday was Gronkwski and he took advantage of it.
RRM: We all know the quarterback goes through his progressions on any one passing play and only has so much time to do so, but I imagine like in your case with Russ, if he wasn’t the primary receiver on the play he at least would be the second option on any given play?
SG: Most usually, you know where he was going to be and he was a great outlet. I think his hands might have been a little bit better than Gronkowski’s, but Gronkowski’s a lot bigger than Russ was, and Russ was a big man. Russ ran really well, Gronkowski does the same, they are very comparable. Two really good tight ends that can do a lot of things block, catch, just about anything you ask them to do.
You can read the full feature here.