Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski may soon retire. Whether he retires this year or next year or the year after or whenever, he’ll be eligible for a bronze bust in the Hall of Fame five years later.
And there’s no question that he should be inducted on his first consideration.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald communicated with five of the 48 voters on the issue of Gronk’s status as a potential first-ballot entry. The responses aren’t nearly as unequivocal as they should be.
Gronkowski’s stats haven’t been spectacular relative to other pass-catchers, but he’s not a receiver. He’s 130th in career receptions and 104th in career receiving yards — much higher in both categories than Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, who has become in some circles a sudden candidate for Canton.
Gronk’s status as a first-ballot entry comes from a combination of his statistics, his blocking, and the fact that in his prime he gave defenses nightmares regarding the prospect of slowing him down. Entering the 2015 season, the question of how to contain Gronkowski became one of the dominant themes in the league, with every possible strategy discussed, plenty of them attempted, and the Steelers at one point during the opening game of that season accidentally attempting to cover Gronk with no one.
Receivers who consistently require such attention stand out. Tight ends who fall into that category definitely do, because they are extremely rare.
Gronkowski wasn’t just rare. He was, and is, one of a kind. A complete tight end, a weapon unlike any other. A guy who surely will be the first-string tight end on the team of the current decade, and who should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer because, with all due respect other all-time great tight ends, none have been greater than Gronk.