Gronkowski, who announced his retirement Sunday on Instagram, finished his pro career with 521 receptions for 7,861 receiving yards and 79 receiving TDs (most in the NFL since Gronk entered the league in 2010). He was a playmaker whenever he took the field, particularly when it mattered most: during the playoffs. Gronk exits stage as the most productive postseason tight end in NFL history, with 81 receptions for 1,163 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns (all tops among TEs) over 16 playoff games. Along the way, he helped the New England Patriots make five trips to the Super Bowl, where they won three Lombardi Trophies.
One of the most prolific tight ends to ever play, Gronk is poised to earn a bronze bust in Canton, which currently features nine players at the position: Dave Casper, Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Ozzie Newsome, Charlie Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Jackie Smith and Kellen Winslow. Tony Gonzalez, the all-time leader in receptions among tight ends, will also be enshrined in August.
Taking all of that into account, one question remains: Is Gronk the greatest tight end of all time?
As I reflect on Gronk, it's so hard to find an argument as to why he should be considered the best ever at his position. But what he was able to do as a receiver, at his size, could be reason enough. The short catch-and-runs. The deep balls. The catch-and-runs in the middle of the field. Plowing over defenders en route to the end zone. What tips things in his favor, though, is how he mashed in the running game. Think about some of the great defenders who play defensive end or outside linebacker. That's a premium position, and Gronk handled his. When he was required to protect in the passing game, he was as good as an elite tackle. In the running game, he was dominant. He did all of this while injured much of the time.
Gronk's production, especially in the postseason, is impossible to ignore -- 81 catches for 12 touchdowns? That's crazy. Sure, the Patriots always were in the playoffs, but that's often when he was at his best -- and that's saying a lot.
So now that Gronk won't be adding any more to his profile and we can talk about his career in the past, I have to say, he's at the top of a great list of tight ends. G.O.A.T. #Gronkspike
Not to take anything away from what Gronk has accomplished -- along with his 521 career receptions and 79 receiving touchdowns, he's the most productive tight end in NFL postseason history -- but he simply wasn't around long enough to claim the title of being the best. Gonzalez is the logical pick in this category, largely because he played in 14 Pro Bowls despite mostly having underwhelming quarterbacks throwing him the ball, and no other receiving threats to keep defenses from fully focusing on him.
Gronk was a mixture of all of them and did it all at a high level. He was the greatest postseason tight end ever, by far. He hit people like Ditka. He was the top player, or among the top, every year, like Newsome. He was big in big games, like Sharpe (see the last two Super Bowls). He was asked to do everything, especially block, like Witten ... except better. He was also a scoring machine, especially early in his career, like Gates. Because of the overall strength of his game, Gronk probably is the greatest true tight end to ever play.
The only drawback, and where Gonzalez surpasses him, was his inability to stay available. Yet, much of Gronk's injury woes stemmed from the fact that he played on a physical level and was asked to do more on that front than the former
Falcons Hall of Famer was. On the other hand, injuries are part of the game, and it's easy to call a guy injury-prone when he is doing so much more than other players at his position. Put another way: In his prime, there was no tight end more valuable than