Rob Gronkowski, not Travis Kelce, is the GOAT tight end

Rob Gronkowski, not Travis Kelce, is the GOAT tight end


I will never be too bougie for a good GOAT conversation. Michael Jordan vs LeBron James, Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady, The Wire vs. Breaking Bad, lemon pepper vs buffalo, give me a beer and I’ll sink my teeth into any of those. On radio row, Hall of Famer and host of the messiest podcast in America — Shannon Sharpe — was asked who he believes is the greatest tight end of all time. He said Travis Kelce is the GOAT, and that is a take I hear with more regularity as Rob Gronkowski’s career fades farther into the past.

A wealth of new Kelce fans have burst onto the scene this season. This group missed all of Gronk’s years as Tom Brady’s No. 1 target. A short video of Gronk highlights went viral over the weekend. I know that many of the Swifties are new to football, but even they should be able to deduce from this video that there is only one GOAT tight end.

Gronkowski was the size of an offensive tackle from the 1980s and was every bit as tenacious. He also had the ball-tracking skills of a wide receiver. The man was a Frankenstein football monster created in a lab. A monster so dominant, that the Patriots decided to trade Randy Moss two weeks after smoking Darrelle Revis so badly for a touchdown that the future Hall of Fame corner pulled a hamstring.

Kelce is the more elusive player. He became the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 1 target after Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Even with all of that attention on him, Kelce had arguably his best season as a pro in 2022 with 110 receptions for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns. At 34, 93 catches for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2023 is considered a down year for him.

The only statistical argument in Gronk’s favor when comparing the two is yards per reception. His career average is 15 while Kelce’s is only 12.5. Averaging two and half more yards per catch shouldn’t negate that Kelce already has surpassed 11,000 receiving yards, 100 touchdowns and will likely reach 1,000 receptions if he plays next season.

Except that those of us who watched Gronk play know how he got those extra yards two and a half yards per catch. He did it by running through MF-ing faces. Stomping through secondaries and linebacker corps may have taken some years off of his career, but it was magnificent to watch.

That clip went viral because counting stats are not even close to the only way to measure the impact of a player. The same way that album sales should not be the sole way to gauge the impact of an artist. People have to watch the games and listen to the music to experience the full picture created by these artists.

Gronk’s impact was felt in the shoulders and facemasks of NFL players for 11 seasons. He tossed his peers all over the field in a way that arguably no other tight end ever has — certainly not Kelce. Both will receive gold jackets one day, but only one of the two clobbered opponents week in and week out. That player had a one syllable nickname, and he is the GOAT tight end.


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