Rob Gronkowski has retired.
In a post via Instagram last night, Gronk let the world know that his football career is over. A move that surprised no one, but was still a tough pill to swallow. Whether you’re a Patriots fan or not, you have to agree that he’s the best to ever do it at his position. Or at the VERY least he is top 2 to ever do it. Dominance. Stats. Titles. Blocking. Gronkowski was the most complete tight end that sport has ever seen.
Now, the reason for this blog isn’t to let everyone know that Gronk has retired. Everyone knows that by now. The reason for this blog is much more petty. I’ve been hearing people say that he doesn’t deserve to be mentioned as the greatest ever solely because of the length of his career. Gronkowski only played 9 seasons. Comparatively speaking, Tony Gonzalez, the consensus pick as the best tight end ever, played 17 years. I can understand arguing that Gonzalez is better since he did play longer, but to say that Gronk doesn’t even belong in the conversation because of his lack of longevity is asinine.
If we’re comparing stats, they look pretty close on paper. But if you dig into them a little more, its clear who actually had more impact on the field. I took all 9 years of Gronk’s career and matched that up against Gonzalez’ first 9 years of his career:
Tony Gonzalez played 28 more games than Gronkowski did over that 9 year stretch. But Gronk STILL has him beat in yards and touchdowns. And that’s all with having 121 less receptions than Gonzalez had over that same 9 year span. Again, my argument isn’t to diminish anything that Tony Gonzalez did on the field. He is an all time great and should always be considered one. But if we are comparing careers, Gronk had more impact on the field. Gonzalez was often times the only real target for Kansas City during his tenure there, which made the team force him the ball on many occasions. Gronk played on a Patriots team that would never continuously force the ball to anyone. So to see Gronkowski still put up the stats he did on a team with a quaterback that would spread the ball around is remarkable.
Those statistics were all for the regular season by the way. If we add in playoff numbers than Gronk absolutely blows Gonzalez outta the water.
I mean, Gronk played an entire extra season JUST in playoff football. When the lights were the brightest! You have some players regular season numbers that can’t even touch that. One could argue that Gronkowski was more valuable to his team while he played as well. Since he was a massive part in all those Patriot teams that went to and won the Super Bowl. Again, one could argue that. I won’t, but one could.
Also, I understand that both players played the tight end position, but they each played it in a different way. Gonzalez wasn’t a finesse tight end by any means, but he also didn’t seek and dish out punishment like Gronkowski did. You could argue that the amount of punishment Gronk took over his 9 year career was more than Gonzalez took over the 17 years that he played. All those hits no doubt led to all the injuries which in turn led to the greatest career ever by a tight end being cut short.
Taking all the stats and everything out of it though, no one effected the game quite like Gronk. Not only was he an elite pass catcher, but he could block with the best lineman out there. That’s the part of his game that is criminally underrated by most people. You could line Gronkowski up at the end of the line and he’d be just as lethal going out for a pass as he would be at blocking a linebacker to spring the running back for a big gain. And that’s what a lot of people didn’t appreciate this last year of his career. Sure, his stats were nowhere near what we all have come to expect, but he impacted the game more so with his blocking than ever. That’s why a player like Travis Kelce will never be considered a great because you couldn’t get that guy to block if his life depended on it. I honestly don’t think he was ever taught how. But Gronk on the other hand relished any moment he could to take out a defensive lineman or linebacker.
That’s a tight end stiffing a defensive lineman at the point of attack to spring the Burkhead. You just don’t see many tight ends do that anymore. Or at least ones that can also go over the top and pick the ball off your helmet like Gronk can. At the end of the day, like I mentioned before, Rob Gronkowski is the most complete tight end to ever play the game. He racked up 3 Super Bowl titles and countless other records while doing it. And I mean countless. Look at this:
Most receptions by a tight end in Super Bowl history (23)
Most receiving yards by a tight end in Super Bowl history (297)
Most career postseason receiving yards by a tight end (1,163)
Most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in a single season (17)
Most touchdowns by a tight end in a single season (18)
Most career postseason touchdowns by a tight end (12)
Most seasons with 10+ touchdowns by a tight end (5)
Most consecutive seasons with 10+ touchdowns by a tight end (3)
Youngest player with 3 touchdown receptions in a game (21 years, 184 days)
Youngest player with 3 touchdown receptions in a playoff game (22 years, 275 days)
Only tight end to have three seasons with 10+ touchdowns and 1,000+ yards
Only tight end to lead the league in receiving touchdowns (2011)
Only tight end with 1,000+ career postseason receiving yards
Most offensive touchdowns in first two seasons (28; t-Randy Moss)
Most seasons of 1,000+ receiving yards by a tight end (4; t-Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten)
That’s insane. It’s gonna be weird to not see him suit up for another Super Bowl run next year, but god damn has he deserved his retirement. He got to go out on his own terms. Winning a title while having the biggest offensive play of the Super Bowl. A first ballot Hall of Famer if there ever was one.
Oh, and here are a few of his greatest hits. I love you Gronk. As does all of New England. Can’t wait to see you in Canton!