Whenever an all-time great steps away from the game of football, the discussion about his legacy quickly turns towards one topic: the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There is no doubt Rob Gronkowski, who announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday, will end up with one of the famed gold jackets one day. The question, however, is whether or not the former New England Patriots star should be inducted on first ballot.
The short answer? Yes, he should be. The longer answer? Yes, because of the following reasons:
While Gronkowski retires after only nine seasons in the NFL, his numbers are simply mind-boggling for a tight end. During his 115 regular season games, he caught 521 passes for 7,861 yards and a Patriot-record 79 touchdowns. On top of that, he also appeared in 16 postseason contests and finished with 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 scores — all three numbers are all-time bests for a tight end. In short: Gronk’s stats are outstanding.
His on-field performance
Numbers only tell one part of the Rob Gronkowski story, though. He was incredibly productive and a matchup nightmare, yes, but his contributions to the Patriots’ offense extended beyond his role as a versatile pass catcher: Gronkowski also was the NFL’s best blocking tight end over the last nine years — essentially another offensive lineman capable of taking on edge rushers in the passing game or creating considerable push in running game.
Gronkowski’s résumé includes three Super Bowl rings earned during the 2014, 2016 and 2018 seasons, five trips to the Pro Bowl (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017), four first-team All-Pro nominations (2011, 2014, 2015, 2017), and the NFL’s comeback player of the year award (2014). Furthermore, he is the owner of 15 tight end records — including virtually every major playoff receiving record for a player at his position.
His team success
While his individual accomplishments cannot be denied, Gronkowski was able to use them to help the Patriots win three Super Bowls and reach the AFC Championship Game in every season after his 2010 rookie campaign. “From his rookie year until his final season and through countless times in between, Rob was a major reason why we won games and championships,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wrote in a statement on Sunday. There’s little more to add to that.
His impact on the game
Make no mistake, Gronkowski helped turn the tight end position into what it is today. While there have always been outstanding receivers and blockers at tight end, few if any combined the two like he did: he was elite in every facet of playing the position, and the Patriots knew how to use him. They moved him around the formation to create mismatches in the passing and running game, and no matter what role he was asked to play, Gronkowski dominated at his position — helping popularize the tight end as a focal point in an offensive attack like the NFL of today uses it.
His superstar character
Over the last nine years, Gronkowski turned from a day two draft selection into a larger-than-life persona: the Gronk. His image as the fun-loving goofball worked as perfectly as it did because he was able to back it up on the field, while standing out from the business-first attitude surrounding the Patriots organization. Furthermore, he also gave back to the community on a regular basis showing that his impact extended beyond the gridiron.
Gronkowski checks all the boxes when it comes to Hall of Fame material and should enter the NFL’s pantheon in his first year of eligibility (2024) — making him the second youngest player ever to become a Hall of Famer. Too great was his impact on the game, his dominance on the field, and his role in the Patriots’ dynastic run. The story of the NFL simply cannot be written without him and his contributions to pro football as a whole.
Will Rob Gronkowski make the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility?
This poll is closed
Yes, he will make it.
No, he will have to wait.