Will Rob Gronkowski Be Viewed as the Greatest Tight End in NFL History?

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Will Rob Gronkowski Be Viewed as the Greatest Tight End in NFL History?


Will Rob Gronkowski Be Viewed as the Greatest Tight End in NFL History?


Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

On Tuesday, five-time Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski retired from the NFL after 11 seasons, per his social media pages.

This was Gronkowski’s second time retiring from the NFL. In March 2019, Gronkowski retired following nine seasons with the New England Patriots. Gronkowski sat out the 2019 season and returned to the NFL in 2020. For the previous two seasons, Gronkowski played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The whole reason Gronkowski joined the Buccaneers was to play with Tom Brady, who was his quarterback for nine seasons with the Patriots. Gronkowski was able to extend his career an extra two years and he was in limbo with retirement heading into the 2022 season.

With less than three months out of the start of the season, Gronkowski chose to end his illustrious career as a tight end. He won four Super Bowls–three with the Patriots and one with the Buccaneers.

Gronkowski had the championships and statistics to back claims of Gronkowski being a worthy Pro Football Hall of Famer. He will likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

His resume stacks up against most tight ends in history but there were questions about where he ranks against the best tight ends in history. Gronkowski finished his career with 9,286 receiving yards. His receiving yards ranked No. 5 all-time among tight ends.

He suffered several major injuries during his career and missed what would have been his 10th season in 2019. Instead of playing that year, he built up his public profile as a celebrity. To put it in perspective, Gronkowski sacrificed one year of his career to map out his retirement, which unexpectedly provided longevity to the end of his career with the Buccaneers.

From a statistical standpoint, he did not have the numbers to compete with Tony Gonzalez, who is the all-time leader in receiving yards and receptions. However, Gonzalez played 17 seasons in the NFL and racked up significant numbers. If Gronkowski played six more seasons, he would have come very close to Gonzalez’s numbers.

Even with six less seasons than Gonzalez, Gronkowski was third all-time in receiving touchdowns by a tight end with 92. Gonzalez finished with a total of 111 touchdown catches. His time missed will hurt him in a debate about the greatest tight end of all-time, but when he was healthy, Gronkowski was on any other tight end’s level.

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