By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
If Rob Gronkowski has indeed played his final NFL game, then the conversation now shifts to his legacy. There isn’t much to talk about there, either. He’s the greatest tight end in Patriots history and in the conversation for the best in the history of the league.
So he’s obviously a first-ballot Hall of Famer, right? Well, some voters apparently don’t feel that way.
Five of the 48 Hall of Fame committee members spoke to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald on Gronkowski’s Hall of Fame chances. It’s a very small sample size, but what they had to say was striking. In general, he’s a virtual lock to get in eventually. But why even “eventually”? How did he not prove his greatness despite what would be a relatively brief burst of brilliance?
One voter, Terez Paylor of Yahoo! Sports, brought up his raw numbers.
“His stats aren’t as high as some of these other guys [who are in]. But there’s no doubt he’s the most complete tight end of his era. But with his stats, there might be some discussion on whether he’d be a first ballot guy, or not. I can see it playing out where he might have to wait a little bit. But he’s done enough to wear a jacket. Rob Gronkowski will be a Hall of Famer one day. He passes that eye test. He made so many big plays in so many big games. He’s won so many rings. It’s going to happen. It just comes down to when. I don’t know the answer to that. But, there’s no doubt he’ll wear that jacket one day. It’s just a matter of when he’ll get put in.”
Gronkowski clearly wasn’t as prolific as Tony Gonzalez, who just became the first tight end ever to get in on his first ballot. That last part alone shows how hard it really is to get in first-ballot. But Gronkowski has averaged more yards per game (68.4 to 56.0), yards per reception (15.1 to 11.4), and touchdowns per game (0.69 to 0.41) in his career. His superior playoff resume to Gonzalez doesn’t even need to be listed here because it’s common knowledge.
If stats were such a strong indicator of Hall of Fame candidacy, then Terrell Owens would’ve been a slam-dunk first-ballot choice. Of course, he wasn’t, for obvious reasons. Gronkowski is far more media- and voter-friendly than Owens ever was, so at least voters won’t hold his personality against him.
Raw numbers shouldn’t be so important in a sport like this, and especially at a position like tight end where plenty of good players struggled to withstand NFL punishment for as much as 10 years. Especially in the case of a player like Gronkowski, it should be more about the impact he made when he did play, and not how long he played.
Gronk’s impact on the game can’t be understated. He was just about universally regarded as the best tight end in the league from about 2011-17. Four First-Team All-Pro honors. Three Super Bowl championships with a key role in all of them. Consistent big-time performances against the highest of competition.
If that doesn’t get you into the Hall of Fame right away, then you have to wonder what game the voters have been watching.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.