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All time greatest tight end

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ivanvamp

In the Starting Line-Up
We all want to say it's Rob Gronkowski. But I want to make a distinction between "best" and "greatest". I think Christian Laettner was perhaps the "greatest" college basketball player I ever saw (I never saw Alcindor or Walton play in college). His achievements were just off the charts. But he wasn't the "best". Ewing was *better*. Jordan was *better*. Len Bias was *better*. A lot of college players were *better* players, but didn't have the kind of career that Laettner did.

So Gronk was, IMO, the *best* tight end to ever play the game. Utterly dominant as a run blocker and as a pass catcher. Healthy, there's never been a player who could do either like Gronk, never mind *both*. But because his career ended at age 29, I don't know if we can say that Gronk is the "greatest" TE ever.

Some candidates:

Tony Gonzalez
- 17 seasons
- 1325 rec, 15127 yds, 11.4 y/c, 111 td
- 14 time pro-bowl (82.4%)
- 6 time all-pro (35.3%)
- avg game: 4.9 rec, 56.0 yds, 0.41 td
- 0 championships

Rob Gronkowski
- 9 seasons
- 521 rec, 7861 yds, 15.1 y/c, 79 td
- 5 time pro-bowl (55.6%)
- 4 time all-pro (44.4%)
- avg game: 4.5 rec, 68.4 yds, 0.69 td (heh)
- 3 championships

Kellen Winslow
- 9 seasons
- 541 rec, 6741 yds, 12.5 y/c, 45 td
- 5 time pro-bowl (55.6%)
- 3 time all-pro (33.3%)
- avg game: 5.0 rec, 61.8 yds, 0.41 td
- 0 championships

John Mackey
- 10 seasons
- 331 rec, 5236 yds, 15.8 y/c, 38 td
- 5 time pro-bowl (50.0%)
- 3 time all-pro (30.0%)
- avg game: 2.4 rec, 37.7 yds, 0.27 td
- 2 championships

Jason Witten
- 15 seasons
- 1152 rec, 12448 yds, 10.8 y/c, 68 td
- 11 time pro-bowl (73.3%)
- 2 time all-pro (13.3%)
- avg game: 4.8 rec, 52.1 yds, 0.28 td
- 0 championships

Antonio Gates
- 16 seasons
- 955 rec, 11841 yds, 12.4 y/c, 116 td
- 8 time pro-bowl (50.0%)
- 3 time all-pro (18.8%)
- avg game: 4.0 rec, 50.2 yds, 0.49 td

There may be more, like Ditka or Casper. I'd say that Gronk is the BEST tight end ever, and certainly the most dominant. But I'd say that Gonzalez may have had the greater career. Longevity does matter. His counting stats are absurd. Still, there's no TE I'd rather have in all of NFL history more than Gronk.
 

slash83

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
Gronk would have shattered TG’s numbers had he been healthy as he was.
 

drewskie

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
At their peak, who do you take?

Same debate for modern pitchers..Clemens Maddux Randy Pedro...at their peak its Pedro and the same applies to Gronk imo.
 

patchick

Moderatrix
Staff member
PatsFans.com Supporter
The all-around dominance of a healthy Rob Gronkowski was just stunning. But yes, a total career matters too and I have tremendous respect for what Gonzalez accomplished.
 

A Defiant Goose

In the Starting Line-Up
We all want to say it's Rob Gronkowski. But I want to make a distinction between "best" and "greatest". I think Christian Laettner was perhaps the "greatest" college basketball player I ever saw (I never saw Alcindor or Walton play in college). His achievements were just off the charts. But he wasn't the "best". Ewing was *better*. Jordan was *better*. Len Bias was *better*. A lot of college players were *better* players, but didn't have the kind of career that Laettner did.

So Gronk was, IMO, the *best* tight end to ever play the game. Utterly dominant as a run blocker and as a pass catcher. Healthy, there's never been a player who could do either like Gronk, never mind *both*. But because his career ended at age 29, I don't know if we can say that Gronk is the "greatest" TE ever.

Some candidates:

Tony Gonzalez
- 17 seasons
- 1325 rec, 15127 yds, 11.4 y/c, 111 td
- 14 time pro-bowl (82.4%)
- 6 time all-pro (35.3%)
- avg game: 4.9 rec, 56.0 yds, 0.41 td
- 0 championships

Rob Gronkowski
- 9 seasons
- 521 rec, 7861 yds, 15.1 y/c, 79 td
- 5 time pro-bowl (55.6%)
- 4 time all-pro (44.4%)
- avg game: 4.5 rec, 68.4 yds, 0.69 td (heh)
- 3 championships

Kellen Winslow
- 9 seasons
- 541 rec, 6741 yds, 12.5 y/c, 45 td
- 5 time pro-bowl (55.6%)
- 3 time all-pro (33.3%)
- avg game: 5.0 rec, 61.8 yds, 0.41 td
- 0 championships

John Mackey
- 10 seasons
- 331 rec, 5236 yds, 15.8 y/c, 38 td
- 5 time pro-bowl (50.0%)
- 3 time all-pro (30.0%)
- avg game: 2.4 rec, 37.7 yds, 0.27 td
- 2 championships

Jason Witten
- 15 seasons
- 1152 rec, 12448 yds, 10.8 y/c, 68 td
- 11 time pro-bowl (73.3%)
- 2 time all-pro (13.3%)
- avg game: 4.8 rec, 52.1 yds, 0.28 td
- 0 championships

Antonio Gates
- 16 seasons
- 955 rec, 11841 yds, 12.4 y/c, 116 td
- 8 time pro-bowl (50.0%)
- 3 time all-pro (18.8%)
- avg game: 4.0 rec, 50.2 yds, 0.49 td

There may be more, like Ditka or Casper. I'd say that Gronk is the BEST tight end ever, and certainly the most dominant. But I'd say that Gonzalez may have had the greater career. Longevity does matter. His counting stats are absurd. Still, there's no TE I'd rather have in all of NFL history more than Gronk.
I just wanna say I had an argument here a while back explaining the difference between greatest and best and one of you basically called me crazy so here's proof that I was right in not being the only one to make that distinction
 

signbabybrady

Pro Bowl Player
The word is greatest not longest tenured. 9 years for physical position is more than enough time to qualify just because a few guys did it longer doesn't mean they did it greater.
 

bormio

In the Starting Line-Up
No TE gave defensive coordinators more headaches than Gronk. The greatest matchup problem since Lawrence Taylor.
 

everlong

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
From a post earlier in the year on a similar topic. In the per game categories he dominates them all during the regular season. In the playoffs he dominates to the point of being in the WR conversations. Those 16 playoff games are a hall of fame regular season never mind playoffs. Throw in the 3 rings and he had the best career. Gonzalez is only average on a per game basis. He's the Yaz of football. Just did it well for forever. In the playoffs he's the worst of all those names.

 

NashuaPats

In the Starting Line-Up
Greatest career or greatest at their peak? That's the real question. As Patriots fans, we all know the answer to the latter, the former is the more difficult question.
 

NashuaPats

In the Starting Line-Up
From a post earlier in the year on a similar topic. In the per game categories he dominates them all during the regular season. In the playoffs he dominates to the point of being in the WR conversations. Those 16 playoff games are a hall of fame regular season never mind playoffs. Throw in the 3 rings and he had the best career. Gonzalez is only average on a per game basis. He's the Yaz of football. Just did it well for forever. In the playoffs he's the worst of all those names.


Good stats, but they don't take into account half a tight ends' responsibilities, blocking. Gronk was a beast at blocking as well at receiving. That's what made him so unique and so good.


Gonzalez, Witten, Gates all rival Gronk in the receiving game, but were children compared to him when it came to blocking.
 

Fixit

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
For me, Gronk's lethality as a blocker cancels out Gonzalez' longevity advantage.
 

RelocatedPatFan

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
Gronk was probably the most dominant/complete TE when he played, but it feels like comparing Barry Sanders career to Emmit Smith. None of those other TEs, I believe, could be repeatedly successful blocking an all-pro DE like Gronk.

And was anyone going to mention that Gronk retired 10 regular season touchdowns too late?
 

everlong

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
Good stats, but they don't take into account half a tight ends' responsibilities, blocking. Gronk was a beast at blocking as well at receiving. That's what made him so unique and so good.


Gonzalez, Witten, Gates all rival Gronk in the receiving game, but were children compared to him when it came to blocking.

Other expounded on that already so I didn't bother to reiterate it. Even just looking at it from a receiving standpoint he was superior.
 

RobertWeathers

Chairman & CEO of Team Bill
Greatness is in the eyes of the beholder.

For me, this is how I look at it.

T-Gon is Roger Clemens/Greg Maddux

Gronk is Pedro/Koufax

If you needed a pitcher to win a life/death game, who do you pick?

If you had to win the Super Bowl, (assuming health) who do you want as your TE?
 

Nehalem

In the Starting Line-Up
Good stats, but they don't take into account half a tight ends' responsibilities, blocking. Gronk was a beast at blocking as well at receiving. That's what made him so unique and so good.

This is very important.

Gonzalez, Witten, Gates all rival Gronk in the receiving game, but were children compared to him when it came to blocking.

Honestly I think Gronk beats them at receiving too.

Especially compare the yards/rec of Gonzalez and Witten vs Gronk. Neither of them had a season with yards/rec >= Gronks worst season.
 

Hyped

PatsFans.com Supporter
PatsFans.com Supporter
Gronk is the best I have ever seen....and it isn't even close... Ben Coates was great also...but not as fast as Gronk nor as a good blocker as Gronk. Tony G to me was more of an athlete/move TE.

And I agee...Laettner was the greatest college basketball player of my lifetime too (born in '73...so can't say I have seen Alcindor/Walton/Mavarich).
 
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