MIAMI, Fla. -- Travis Kelce vs. George Kittle. Who’s better?
That’s like asking if you prefer a gold-flaked tomahawk ribeye to a jumbo lobster tail drowned in melted butter. It’s all about your taste, your preference. And there is no wrong answer. Both offer entertainment worth savoring.
The AP voters, however, already have spoken on this matter. They named 49ers star George Kittle to the first-team All-Pro tight end. Kelce, the Kansas City Chiefs' star tight end, is on the second team after occupying the top spot last year.
We can break down stats, which are virtually identical on average. Kelce’s overall sums are slightly bigger because he didn’t miss a game and Kittle missed two.
We can talk about entertainment value, but that won’t break the tie. Kittle celebrates good plays like a WWE wrestler. Kelce has written the NFL several checks for post-touchdown antics.
We can talk about impact and advancement of the game, but both guys are on the cutting edge with a combination of quicks and physicality that makes them a tough cover and tackle.
We can’t look at the Super Bowl LIV box score in this upcoming Sunday’s NFL-title clash between Kittle’s 49ers and Kelce’s Kansas City Chiefs to determine a victor. That's too short-sighted, and recency bias isn't our thing.
Maybe we should just sit back, appreciate and applaud two elite talents at the height of their powers.
That’s what Tony Gonzalez thinks.
“Comparison is the death of joy,” Gonzalez said, via the Washington Post. “I enjoy them both.”
Kittle and Kelce certainly enjoy each other. That has been clear all week, in responses to one tight end constantly asked about the other. It’s clear from each utterance on the nearly tired topic that there’s mutual respect between these two titan tight ends.
“There's a reason why he was labeled this year’s first-team All-Pro,” Kelce said. “The tenacity he plays with in the blocking and receiving game is incredible. And he’s an animal when he gets the ball in his hands.”
Kelce has been awesome a while now, and longevity certainly counts here. Both should rank among the best ever, but Kelce might already garner such distinction after plying his trade back far enough to Kittle to have studied him in college.
“What’s not to like? I love everything about how he plays,” Kittle said. “I have been watching Kelce since I was a junior in college. I did homework assignments on him from my college coach. I’ve been watching and learning from him. He’s the best red-zone threat in the NFL. He demands double coverage down there. He has such a good feel for the game.
“My favorite thing about him is his personality shows through silent film. There’s no sound on my iPad, but you can feel the energy each and every snap. Whether he’s getting the ball or celebrating with his teammates, that’s what I’d love about his personality. He’s such a good football player. He plays the game as he’s supposed to.”
Kittle’s run blocking might be the only dividing line. The 49ers tight end is tenacious creating space for running backs, pile driving opponents out of the way time and again this season. That was especially true in the NFC playoffs, when the 49ers rarely threw due to dominance on the ground.
His yards after the catch might be another, but Kelce nearly has as many explosive plays.
Gonzalez, as it turns out, is right. There’s no sense getting bogged down in minutiae to determine a winner here. It’s also not a copout to call a draw on the scorecard.
We can say that each player adds something to the long and proud tradition of top-tier tight ends, which become an increasingly important part of NFL offenses.
“We’re feeding off of what guys like Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates did before us,” Kelce said. “It’s something we have to keep going in the league, making sure the tight end remains a vital and productive position.”