Sunday, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL. His agent said it would not be a surprise if Gronkowski returns at some point this season. As of right now, though, Gronk has ended his football career. Now that he is done playing, let’s take a look back at Rob Gronkowski’s career in the National Football League.
Rob Gronkowski, who spent his entire career with the Patriots, accomplished a lot in his time in the league. During his nine seasons, he made five Pro Bowls as well as four All-Pro First Teams. Not only did he pile up accolades, but he also piled up the stats.
Gronkowski came into the league with a very good rookie season in 2010. While he only had 546 receiving yards, he finished with 10 touchdowns.
The best season of Rob Gronkowski’s career was in 2011, just his second season in the league. Starting all 16 games, Gronk brought in 90 catches from quarterback Tom Brady. With those 90 catches, he compiled 1,327 receiving yards, breaking the all-time single season tight end record. That record lasted all the way until this past season, when both George Kittle and Travis Kelce broke it. He also grabbed a league-leading 17 touchdown passes, tied for fifth most single-season touchdown catches all time.
Gronkowski had a total of four seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving and five seasons with at least 10 touchdowns.
On top of all the individual accomplishments, Rob Gronkowski is also a three-time Super Bowl champion. He did not play in one of the three playoff runs, but was a pivotal part in the other two.
The only blemish throughout Rob Gronkowski’s career has been his susceptibility to injury. Gronk suffered a total of fifteen injuries during his nine seasons in the NFL and may have played a part in his decision to retire before even turning 30 years old.
He played in all 16 games during both of his first two seasons, but after that, the injuries started to occur. In 2012, he fractured his forearm, causing him to miss five games. Maybe even more importantly, he suffered a high-ankle sprain in the AFC Championship Game and missed the rest of the game. While he did come back and play in the Super Bowl two weeks later, Gronkowski’s injury was clearly bothering him. On the last play of the game, Tom Brady threw up a Hail Mary into the end zone in Gronk’s direction. It would have been a catchable ball if Gronkowski was healthy, but his sprained ankle prevented him from jumping high enough.
The next offseason, he fractured his back, causing him to miss the first six games of the year. Then a few weeks later, Rob Gronkowski tore both his ACL and MCL, ending his season.
The final major injury of his career was a herniated disk in 2016 which caused the tight end to miss five regular season games and the entire playoff run. Outside of the major injuries, Gronkowski has also had a number of minor, nagging issues throughout his career. Some caused him to miss a game or two and others prevented him from playing at his best level week in and week out.
Where Gronkowski Stands All-Time
Gronkowski always stood out when he was playing at his best. Not only was he a huge mismatch for opposing defenders, but he was also one of, if not the, best blocking tight ends in football. He would dominate at the line of scrimmage to create holes as well as take defenders out downfield when necessary.
Both his pass-catching and blocking prowess make Gronkowski one of the best tight ends of all time and a surefire Hall of Famer. But where does he stand in the all-time discussion?
Gronkowski’s career is complicated because, at his best, there is no match for him. He is probably at the top of the list in regards to peak talent and production. His single season in 2011 of 1,327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns is hands down the greatest single season ever for a tight end. In addition, he ranks top among tight ends in career receiving yards per game, with 68.5.
Third Greatest Ever
However, in the overall discussion of the greatest tight ends, his injury history and lack of longevity knock him down a couple of notches. He played in only 115 total games. On the other hand, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, two of the best, played in 270 and 236 games, respectively. He ranks just outside the top 100 in career receiving yards and is in the top 30 for career receiving touchdowns. On the other hand, Gonzalez ranks sixth in receiving yards among all players and Gates ranks 28th. Shannon Sharpe is also in the top 50 with just over 10,000 receiving yards for his career. Gates is tied for sixth all-time in receiving touchdowns while Gonzalez is eighth. Gronkowski does have more touchdowns than Sharpe, who played in about 90 more games.
Rob Gronkowski’s career as a tight end sits at probably the third greatest of all time for his position. He is right behind Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. The former Patriot had an extremely productive, successful career and was one of the best to ever do it. At his peak, he was both the best pass-catching tight end and best blocking tight end in the league. From his dominance on the field, to his post-touchdown spikes, to his partying off the field, Rob Gronkowski’s career was something special. Now it’s time for him to move onto the next chapter in his life and, well, Gronk it up.
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