By Raul Vazquez
To start the week Adam Schefter broke the news that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is planning to retire. With the news breaking, players and reporters alike paid their respect to the all time great tight end that he is.
At the end of his nine year career, he has amassed 521 receptions going for 7,861 receiving yards and 79 touchdowns. He has notably made his presence known coming up big when the situation called for him most. He is leaving the game with the best marks for a tight end in postseason history coming up with 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 TDs over his 16 games in the playoffs. Each mark is the best among tight ends.
In the immediate reaction to the news, tons of players and reporters have given Gronk the label of the greatest tight end of all time. The question is, is he truly the best tight end of all time ?
The news of his retirement has spurred an incredible amount of recency bias which is misguided. There is no doubt that is a great player and was truly dominant during his time with the Patriots since being drafted in 2010 but he is not the best tight end of all time.
The career Patriots tight end had an incredibly successful career which was constantly riddled by injury. The injuries piled up and he had reportedly flirted with retirement a number of times. Though he only missed a handful of games the last two seasons, he did not play a full sixteen game season since 2012. That year in 2012 he went off and had a career year with 90 catches, 1327 yards, and 17 TDs. Through his illustrious nine year career with New England he has garnered four first team all-pro berths, along with five pro bowls. Due to the short career he had he was unable to truly leave his mark on all time marks in receptions, yards and TDs
Gronk was truly dominant and is undoubtedly a lock to earn a bust in Canton when he becomes eligible, but we must take into consideration past greats such as Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Dave Casper, Mike Ditka, Shannon Sharpe, and Kellen Winslow to name a few.
His overall numbers and his body of work makes it hard to give him the throne of greatest tight end. His all time numbers do not hold up well when compared to Gates, Gonzalez, or a great of his generation Witten.
While Gronkowski was amazing and the best tight end during his playing days, but his career numbers do not compare well to other tight ends. Tony Gonzalez retired with the best numbers among tight ends and should still definitely hold the label of best tight end of all time. Gonzalez was named to 14 pro bowls, and named to six first team all pros, had 1,325 receptions for 15,127 yards which is the best all time mark for tight ends and his 111 touchdowns are second to only Antonio Gates.
The case can also be made for Shannon Sharpe, Antonio Gates and Jason Witten who each have far superior all time numbers. With an early departure, Gronkowski’s numbers do not come close to other great tight ends and should be not be called the greatest tight end of all time. He is certainly top five, and is in the discussion for top three tight ends of all time as well.