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Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were almost Raiders: Dana White

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were almost Las Vegas Raiders?

Yep, that is what UFC president Dana White said Saturday night on “UFC 278 with the Gronks” in an interview with Gronkowski, who, of course, ended up joining Brady in Tampa Bay and winning a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers in 2021.

Gronkowski introduced the subject on the show, saying White gave Brady a recruiting pitch when he was a free agent and then asked the UFC’s head honcho “what went wrong” and why Brady didn’t sign with Vegas.

Left to right: Tom Brady, Dana White, Rob Gronkowski and Jon Gruden.
Left to right: Tom Brady, Dana White, Rob Gronkowski and Jon Gruden.
USA TODAY Sports; Getty Images (2); USA Today network

White seemed reticent to tell the tale: “Do I really tell this story right now, Rob?” White asked. “Do you want me to tell this story?”

Gronkowski said yes, and added that he “could have been in Vegas” with White for the last three years.

“You would have been,” White said emphatically, and Gronkowski agreed with that assessment.

White said there was one person who blew up the deal — Jon Gruden.

“I worked to put that deal together for Brady and Gronk to come to the Raiders,” said White, who is not connected with the Raiders in any official capacity. “It was almost a done deal. At the last minute, Gruden blew the deal up and said that he didn’t want them.

“All hell broke loose, man. It was crazy,” White said. “Brady was already looking at houses, and it wasn’t being said yet that Gronk was coming. So Las Vegas would have had Brady and Gronk the year the Bucs won the Super Bowl, except Gruden blew the deal up. There’s so much story that goes along with this behind the scenes. … I was never going to tell that story until Gronk just said it.”

Gronkowski backed up White’s account, saying that is “exactly what happened.”

Gruden — who resigned from the Raiders last October after it was revealed he used homophobic and misogynistic language in a series of emails over the course of seven years — and then-general manager Mike Mayock were in charge of all personnel decisions at the time.

Las Vegas fired Mayock in January after three rocky seasons with the team, which compiled a 25-24 record and one playoff appearance. The Raiders are now coached by Josh McDaniels, the Patriots’ longtime offensive coordinator, and their new GM is Dave Ziegler, who also was in New England’s organization.

After White told the story, Gronkowski said he was happy how things turned out.

“I’m glad it did not go through,” Gronkowski said on the show. “It all worked out for the best, man. I’m glad we went to Tampa, man. It just worked out. I love that place.”

The seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady, now in his third season with Tampa Bay, ended up signing with the Buccaneers in 2020 after 20 years and six Super Bowl runs with coach Bill Belichick the Patriots. Brady has been on an organization-approved leave from the Buccaneers attending to an undisclosed personal matter.

Gronkowski, who had retired for one season, reunited with Brady and won his fourth Super Bowl, all with the surefire Hall of Fame signal-caller. The tight end announced his retirement for the second time in June.

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