New England Patriots five-time Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski is riding off into the sunset in his party bus in the same fashion that legends Ray Lewis and Peyton Manning did at the end of their careers. Gronk announced his official retirement from the professional football yesterday and while he didn’t end his career at the top of his game, he did still go out on top as a Superbowl champion after the franchise won their sixth championship in team history.
Since being drafted by the organization in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft with the 42 overall pick he was the most dominant player at his position for the vast majority of his career. While many believe that his injury history is the main catalyst for polarizing party boy pass catcher calling it a career after just nine seasons in the league, they also believe that he did enough during his time in the league to solidify a spot among the greatest to ever play his position.
Some would argue that his accomplishments in this pass-happy era should diminish his all-time ranking a bit because Hall of Famers Kellen Winslow Sr., Ozzie Newsome, Mike Ditka and the consensus greatest tight end in NFL history in Tony Gonzalez, who will be inducted into the hall in August of this year, played in an entirely different era.
While Gonzalez retired as the new era was just starting to take off, Gronk played nearly his whole career in this pass-happy league, that the NFL has become now. Despite that fact, he was still the best all-around and most complete tight end of his generation as he was just as dominant as a blocker in both the pass and run game as he was as a pass catcher. He played with and brought an old school style and toughness to the game and was a matchup nightmare for defenders every time he lined up to run a route and catch a pass for future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
He and Brady had an incredible rapport during their time together and teamed up to win three of the last five Superbowls. They hooked up for 521 receptions, 7,861 receiving yards and 80 total touchdowns in the regular season which the most of any tight end during his time in the league but it was his performance in the postseason that could cement his status among the elite to ever play the game.
He finished his career 81 catches, 1,163 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in the 16 playoff appearances, which would add up to be the second-best regular-season total in his career. He has produced so many clutch plays for the Patriots in the biggest moments of the game that either sent them to or secured an eventual Superbowl victory.
While he didn’t catch a single touchdown in the 2018 playoffs, he arguably had his best postseason in his career as he made two of the biggest plays of New England’s latest championship campaign. After coming down with contested catch in the AFC Championship with Eric Berry draped all over him that proved to be vital play in sending the team to their 10th Superbowl in franchise history and third in the last four years, he made an even bigger play in the biggest moment of the biggest game just two weeks later in Superbowl LIII (53).
In a defensive slugfest, late in the fourth quarter Gronk came down with another contested catch, this time with three players covering him, up the left sideline that set up what would be the only touchdown of the title game as Sony Michel would punch the ball in the endzone just a few plays later.
Despite not playing a decade in the league and really only played in enough regular season games to accumulate just over seven full season due to injuries, he still could go down as one of the best of all time in the eyes of some because of what his contributions on the field amounted to in terms of wins and championships more so than the spot that they place him among the all-time stats list at the tight end position.
Gonzales put up legendary numbers quarterbacks that were immensely inferior to the great Tom Brady and will go down as the Godfather at the position but Gronk’s impact on the game will make him a strong candidate for No.2 all-time as the four-time All Pro’s clock to Canton has officially started and he should be a no brainer first ballot Hall of Famer six years from now in 2025.