49ers' George Kittle 'stoked' to see Rob Gronkowski join Buccaneers

49ers' George Kittle 'stoked' to see Rob Gronkowski join Buccaneers

George Kittle has earned his crown as the NFL's best tight end. He broke the single-season receiving record for tight ends in 2018, and yet was even better overall last season. 

Along with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, Kittle is the cream of the crop at his position. That doesn't mean he isn't excited to see an all-time great return to the game, though.

His feelings were the exact opposite actually when news broke Tuesday that Rob Gronkowski had un-retired and was traded from the New England Patriots to join Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I'm stoked," Kittle said to ESPN's Scott Van Pelt on Tuesday night. "Gronk was my favorite tight end watching, especially in college with how he dominated in the run game and made the explosive plays in the run game. I'm excited to see Gronk back on the football field because he's just such a blast to watch and it's just fun seeing him out there, really. Especially when it's with Tom in Tampa. 

"Good for them. I think it's gonna be sick."

Gronkowski actually is a big fan of Kittle's as well. Prior to the 49ers and Chiefs squaring off in Super Bowl LIV last season, Gronk told The Athletic's Daniel Brown that he prefers Kittle over Kelce. 

“Kittle, for sure,’’ Gronkowski told Brown in Miami. “Because he just reminds me of myself a little bit with the way he plays the game.”

The former Patriots tight end and future Hall of Famer recognizes Kittle and Kelce's immense talent. But Kittle, like Gronkowski, has a love for dominating as a run-blocker, which Gronk can appreciate. 

[RELATED: Could 49ers be a fit for Howard after Bucs' Gronk trade?]

“I see a little bit of me in both, but I would say I’m definitely more of a Kittle, hands down,’’ Gronkowski said. “I would say that because of the attitude that he brings to the table, just the grit he brings into the trenches. 

"He wants to bring it every time. He wants to be that guy that’s fierce out there and just wrecking guys whether it’s the passing game or the running game.”

The 49ers don't play the Bucs this season, but perhaps the two tight ends can square off in the playoffs in what would be a matchup full of wild storylines.

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How 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo grades 2019 season that fell just short

How 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo grades 2019 season that fell just short

Everyone has an opinion about Jimmy Garoppolo’s first full season as an NFL starter.

On Monday, for the first time since the 49ers’ bitter Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Garoppolo spoke publicly about how he thought he performed in 2019.

“I thought it was a productive year,” Garoppolo said on a video call with Bay Area reporters. “Obviously, it didn’t finish the way we wanted it to. But I think there were a lot of things that went well for us.”

Garoppolo had just 10 NFL starts in his first five seasons. He played in just three games in 2018 due to a torn ACL. Last year, he started all 16 regular-season games and posted one of the better individual seasons from a quarterback in 49ers history.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Garoppolo ranked third in 49ers history with a 69.1 completion percentage. That accuracy also enabled his receivers to post big yards-after-the-catch numbers. Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards, ranking fourth in franchise history.

“The thing I always take pride in is being an accurate quarterback,” Garoppolo said. “The more accurate you are, the more yards after the catch your guys can go get for you. So in our offense, it’s putting the ball in the right spot, putting it in the right timing of the play and it’s little things like that that go a long way in our offense.

“I was pretty happy with everything, how it went. Like I said, we just want the last game of the season to turn out a little differently.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch discussed the possibility of pursuing Tom Brady as a free agent this offseason before opting to remain committed to Garoppolo, who turns 29 on Nov. 2.

[RELATEDJohn Lynch calls Jimmy G's physical skills 'elite']

Garoppolo believes, as do Shanahan and Lynch, that he has room to grow as he gains experience. One area where Garoppolo can improve is in taking care of the ball. He threw 16 interceptions in 19 games, including the postseason.

“Having my first full season under my belt, coming off the ACL and everything that went into that season, it will only help me going forward,” Garoppolo said. “I think in terms of being a quarterback, I still have a long way to go. I’m still relatively young for a quarterback, just in terms of playing time.

“As a quarterback, you got to get out there and get the reps, play, get in the live action like that. I think having a full season under my belt will help me going forward.”

How 49ers fans acted toward NFL analyst Adam Rank since 3-13 prediction

How 49ers fans acted toward NFL analyst Adam Rank since 3-13 prediction

It was an idiotic pick, according to himself.

Before the 2019 season began, NFL Network analyst Adam Rank predicted the 49ers would have a 3-13 record. That didn’t happen, of course, as they went 13-3 and found their way to Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

The 49ers fans who got wind of this let Rank have it on social media.

But how have 49ers fans been since then? Maybe not as bad as we thought.

“They’ve been great,” Rank said on the NBC Sports Bay Area’s Balk Talk podcast. “Right off the bat, they’ve been super cool.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

So why did Rank choose that ghastly record? Jimmy Garoppolo was coming off of an ACL injury, for starters, and the 49ers secondary was coming off a season where they couldn't force takeaways.

“The defensive secondary had no interceptions -- or, I think maybe it was two interceptions, but the cornerbacks had no interceptions for an entire season,” Rank said. “Richard Sherman, you know, had not been playing well, arriving from Seattle … “

Rank also wasn’t sure how 49ers newly-drafted defensive end Nick Bosa would do. He can’t predict the future. He couldn’t anticipate a Defensive Rookie of the Year honor or an 89.8 grade on Pro Football Focus after a nine sack, 47 tackle, 25 QB-hit season.

How was he to know that?

[RELATED: Rank admits he's an 'idiot' for 49ers prediction]

Don’t worry friends, Rank had his reasons. And he has more than made up for it, predicting the 49ers to finish with a 12-4 record in the 2020 season.

He talks about that, and more on the latest episode of Balk Talk. And wait until you hear about the time Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout asked him for fantasy football advice.