The Gronkowski Injury: Gronk vs. NFL's Hall Of Fame Tight Ends

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 19, 2012

Man-about-town and all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski broke his arm Sunday in New England's 59-24 win over Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.

He will likely miss the rest of the regular season, according to various reports out of Foxboro.

Put into context: the Patriots lose the greatest scoring machine in the history of tight ends for the remainder of 2012.

Gronkowski caught two touchdowns in the win over the Colts and now has 10 in 10 games in 2012, continuing his absolutely torrid and unprecedented scoring pace. With 10 TD in 10 games, he was on pace to fall just shy of the tight-end record 17 TDs he scored in 2011.

Now, we know historically the tight end was a glorified blocker, used only sparingly in the passing game. 

And obviously the game has changed much in the Live Ball Era (1978-present), changes that have accelerated dramatically in recent years as the NFL neuters every defense like a stray dog.

But the difference between Gronkowski's scoring production and that of past tight ends hit us like a Bernard Pollard cheap shot when we started looking at Hall of Fame tight ends Sunday just for sh*ts and giggles.

There's simply no comparison between Gronkowski and the greatest tight ends ever when it comes to scoring touchdowns.

Let's put it this way: NFL Network offered a Top 10 episode recently listing the best tight ends in history. They named John Mackey No. 1 on the list.

Mackey, the greatest tight end ever, according to the experts at the NFL Network, scored 38 touchdowns in a 10-year career. Gronkowski has scored 37 TDs in about two-and-a-half years.

Some other notables: Jackie Smith, 40 TDs in 16 seasons; the legendary Mike Ditka, 43 in 12 seasons; the mighty Kellen Winslow, 45 in nine years; and Ozzie Newsome 47 in 13 years.

Gronk will likely easily surpass even Dave Casper and Shannon Sharpe in pretty short order.

Here's how Gronk sizes up against every Hall of Fame tight end, sorted by most career TDs. It's amazing that after 2½ years he's already in the conversation.

Gronkowski vs. Hall of Fame Tight Ends, Ranked by TD Catches

Tight endYearsCatchesYardsAVGTDsMost TD
Shannon Sharpe148151006012.36210
Dave Casper11378521613.85210
Ozzie Newsome13662798012.1479
Kellen Winslow9541674112.54510
Mike Ditka12427581213.64312
Jackie Smith16480791816.5409
John Mackey10331523615.8389
Rob Gronkowski3185262114.23717
Charlie Sanders10336481714.3316

Of course, the modern tight end position has changed quite a bit in recent years, as we noted above. Long-time Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has played with the Falcons since 2009, is the all-time leader in everything.

Gonzalez has caught 101 TDs in 16 seasons, with a career-high of 11 way back in 1999. That's an average of 6.3 TDs per season, or 0.4 TDs in his 248 career games.

Gronkowski has caught 37 TDs in less than three seasons, an average of 12.3 TDs per season, or 0.88 TDs in 42 career games.

By the way, Gronk's production is not only unprecedented among tight ends, it's hard to find wide receivers who compare.

Take a certain famed wide out named Jerry Rice. He caught 197 touchdown passes in 303 career games (0.65 per game) and in 20 NFL seasons (9.9 per year), in each case well below Gronk's early pace.

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