By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Rob Gronkowski was really, really good at football. Really, really, ridiculously good.
The thing is, when a player is active, it's often difficult to try to appreciate his accomplishments in a historical sense. After all, when there's another game to be played the next week, there's only so much time for a larger perspective.
But now, unfortunately for those who enjoyed watching the big man play every Sunday, Gronkowski is hanging up his spikes. Will they remain hung up forever? Or might the pain of watching the Patriots on television every week become too much to bear, thus forcing Gronkowski out of retirement to save the day come December?
Maybe, maybe not. But for now, we're all operating as if Gronkowski has played his final snap on an NFL field. And if he has, he'll go down as the single most dominant tight end to ever play the sport.
To help illustrate that point, here's a collection of data, stats and records that researchers and reporters were quick to share after Gronkowski made his announcement.
The folks at Sports Illustrated shared this neat and tidy bullet-point list:
--Only tight end to lead the league in receiving touchdowns in a season
--Only tight end with 1,000+ career playoff receiving yards
--Most career playoff receiving yards by a tight end (1,163)
--Most TD receptions in a season by a tight end (17)
--Most TDs in a season by a tight end (18)
--Most playoff receiving TDs by a tight end (12)
--Most seasons with 10+ TDs by a tight end (5)
--Only tight end to have three seasons with 10+ TDs and 1,000+ receiving yards
--Most consecutive seasons with 10+ TDs by a tight end (3, 2010-12)
--Tied for most touchdowns in first two seasons (28, tied with Randy Moss)
SUPER BOWL RECORDS
--Most receptions by tight end (23)
--Most receiving yards by tight end (297)
"Absolutely preposterous" was the proper way to describe all of that.
Graham Barfield at NFL.com shared that Gronkowski is the all-time leader among tight ends in yards per game, touchdowns per game, and yards per target.
George Chahrouri of Pro Football Focus shared that the Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski duo was unparalleled.
To that end, ESPN.com's Bill Barnwell laid out how much of an impact Gronkowski made on Brady. As Barnwell put it, when Gronk was on the field, "Brady was Aaron Rodgers," but when Gronk was out, Brady was Kirk Cousins.
Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk noted how rare it is for a player of Gronkowski's size to have been able to put up such monstrous receiving numbers.
That one really drives home the rarity of Gronkowski. Among players with 500 or more receptions and 15 or more yards per catch, only nine have weighed more than 200 pounds, only three have weighed more than 230 pounds, and only one has weighed more than 241 pounds. That is of course Gronkowski, who at 265 pounds was simply in a class unto himself.
Pro Football Focus, which grades every snap from every player in every game, graded Gronkowski as the best tight end in the NFL in seven of his nine seasons. (He graded out as the third-best tight end as a rookie in 2010, and as the ninth-best tight end in 2018.)
PFF also noted that Gronkowski has been the best tight end in his era in terms of yards per route run.
The folks at PFF also shined a spotlight on the game-winning drive in Pittsburgh in 2017, which will be remembered as perhaps the best encapsulation of Gronkowski's singular dominance.
Add it all up, and well, obviously it's quite impressive. Tack on a couple of Super Bowl rings (plus one more championship in a season where Gronkowski was limited to just eight games played due to injury), and you'd be hard-pressed to draw up a more perfect career for a tight end in the NFL.
Though he only played nine seasons and lost nearly two full seasons to injury, the man packed more into his career than any other player before him ever had.
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