Patriots

Patriots

There's a chance Super Bowl LIII was Rob Gronkowski's last NFL game. Which means the discussion over his legacy can begin.

Most agree the New England Patriots tight end is one of the best ever at his position and that he deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not all voters believe he's first-ballot material, however.

In fact, the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian spoke to a few members of the Hall of Fame selection committee who wouldn't vote Gronkowski in on the first-ballot, the highest honor for an NFL player.

Why, you ask? Yahoo Sports' Terez Paylor apparently believes Gronkowski's numbers still aren't good enough.

“His stats aren’t as high as some of these other guys (who are in)," Paylor told Guregian. "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."

Gronkowski's stats do pale in comparison to those of tight end Tony Gonzalez, who went in on the first ballot this year. Gronk has "only" 521 receptions, 7,861 yards and 79 receiving touchdowns to Gonzalez's 1,325 receptions, 15,127 yards and 111 TDs.

But, you argue, Gronkowski needed just nine seasons to put up those gaudy numbers, while Gonzalez played 17.

Well, the longevity (or lack thereof) of Gronk's career also works against him in voters' eyes.

 

"The issue with him will be the brevity of his career,” Mike Chappell of Fox59 Sports in Indy told Guregian. “I would almost compare him to (former Lions receiver) Calvin Johnson, who played eight or nine years. He’s way down the list in terms of career stats. But gosh, when he played, he was elite.

" ... I’d pump the brakes on first ballot. To me, there’s always a ton of boxes you have to check for first ballot. And one is longevity."

Chappell's take checks out: The last player to make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot despite playing fewer than 10 NFL seasons was running back Earl Campbell in 1991.

In fact, there are only three tight ends in the Hall of Fame who lasted less than a decade in the league: John Mackey, Kellen Winslow and Charlie Sanders. When you add that Gronkowski has missed 29 regular season games due to injury, you could make the case the length of his career hurts his first-ballot chances.

That said, Gronkowski still is a generational talent who redefined the tight end position for the modern era (and won three Super Bowls in the process). Regardless of whether he gets in on the first try, his bust will be in Canton someday.

But if Gronk wants to increase those first-ballot chances, we'd suggest coming back for a 10th season...

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