When the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet up in Super Bowl LV, it will also be a matchup between two of the most prolific tight ends in NFL history.
The Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and the Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski are the poster boys of the modern tight end position. For the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s, both Kelce and Gronkowski were chosen as representatives. There have been other great seasons by a tight end recently, but none have displayed the consistent dominance that these two have.
Kelce just broke the NFL’s single-season record for tight end yardage, while Gronkowski still holds the record for touchdown receptions in one season: 17 in 2011. Kelce earned his third first-team All-Pro accolade this year, while Gronkowski got his fourth in 2017.
Gronkowski used his time with Super Bowl reporters on Monday to praise Kelce for his impact on changing the reputation of their position.
"He has helped transform the tight end position."@RobGronkowski has a ton of respect for @tkelce.— NFL (@NFL) February 1, 2021
: #SBOpeningNight — LIVE on Twitter pic.twitter.com/TjOzY6VPKn
Later on, Gronkowski talked about the respectful relationship between the two.
Gronk says there is a lot of mutual respect between him and Travis Kelce:— Hayley Lewis (@HayleyLewisKSHB) February 1, 2021
"Were cool with each other, I've met him once or twice, we have a lot of mutual respect for one another...what he has done for the position of tight end, I can only have respect for that" #ChiefsKingdom
Kelce and Gronkowski are both pioneers at tight end for different reasons. Gronkowski’s ability to catch and run at his size was always impressive, but he’s special because he blocks like an extra offensive tackle. Kelce’s unique because of his elusiveness and route-running: the NFL has never seen a man of Kelce’s size run routes like a wide receiver.
Gronkowski may not be as fleet of foot, but he respects Kelce’s progressive play style.
#Bucs Gronk on #Chiefs TE Travis Kelce:— Hayley Lewis (@HayleyLewisKSHB) February 1, 2021
"You gotta appreciate every type of tight end, it's not like you just need to block and be big and strong and go out for big passes, but now there are TE that can line up out wide. Great to see so many making a huge impact in the game"
Not only does he respect Kelce’s game, but he also believes that Kelce is the best the Chiefs have to offer on that side of the ball.
Gronk says Travis Kelce is the best player on the Chiefs offense...— Hayley Lewis (@HayleyLewisKSHB) February 1, 2021
"He gets drives going and makes the best plays…he is smooth, very functional, he’s a pleasure to watch...he’s something special, he’s hungry every single year..."#ChiefsKingdom #Buccaneers
The two are pioneers for how tight ends are used on the field, but they’ve also increased the value of having an elite tight end — leading to higher salaries for the position.
#Buccaneers Gronk talks more on #Chiefs TE Travis Kelce...— Hayley Lewis (@HayleyLewisKSHB) February 1, 2021
"I've got nothing but major respect for Travis Kelce...he has helped put the TE position on the map, he has also helped tight ends get paid the way they deserve to be paid..."#ChiefsKingdom
The two have tons of respect for each other, but one of them is closer to their prime than the other. After multiple injuries, Gronkowski retired for the 2019 season before coming back to play with the Buccaneers. On the other hand, Kelce has continued to increase his production year-by-year. Gronkowski has noticed.
#Buccaneers Gronk continued on Travis Kelce....— Hayley Lewis (@HayleyLewisKSHB) February 1, 2021
"One thing that is really intriguing is that Kelce gets better every year I've seen him play in the NFL...He has progressed his game every single year that's mad respect right there."#ChiefsKingdom
While they don’t line up across from each other, it will still be the second-consecutive Super Bowl featuring two opposing, great tight ends. Last year, Kelce and San Francisco 49ers’ tight end George Kittle were the big names. They sat down with Gronkowski and former Chiefs’ tight end Tony Gonzalez before the game to discuss the position’s progress on FOX.
On the big stage, both Kelce and Gronkowski will have a chance to strengthen their résumé as the greatest tight end to ever play. It’s fair to say that Kelce isn’t there yet — but contributing to another Super Bowl victory would only help his case.