In most lists ranking all-time NFL tight ends, former Chief Tony Gonzalez is usually sitting on top of that list, but is he even the greatest Chiefs’ tight end of all time?
Last Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs were in a dog fight against the Carolina Panthers. They were down 13-17 late in the third quarter. Facing a 3rd & 7 from their own 44-yard line, getting the first down was going to be crucial to being able to stay in the game. Patrick Mahomes was able to find Travis Kelce on an out and up play where he broke away from the cornerback for 44 yards.
That play would set up an eventual touchdown two plays later and the Chiefs gained the lead for the first time in the game. Kelce failed to reach the endzone in this game, but he was able to haul in 10 catches for 159 yards, and eight of his 10 grabs resulted in Kansas City first downs.
At 31 years old, Travis Kelce does not appear to be slowing down any time soon. In fact, he may actually still be getting better. If you look at his current resume and where he could end up by the end of his career, is he the greatest Chiefs’ tight end ever?
I know, I know; Tony Gonzalez is the greatest tight end of all time, so how could Kelce even compare to that? Is it crazy to think that when it is all said and done, the two greatest tight ends to ever play the game both played in Kansas City? Is it even crazier to think that Kelce will end up being number one on that list? I don’t think so.
If you look at just the stats, obviously Tony G is leading in every category. He played for 17 seasons in the NFL. Travis Kelce is only halfway through his eighth season and he missed his entire rookie season to injury. However, if you look at Gonzalez’s stats as a Kansas City Chief compared to what Kelce is averaging, the stats are actually pretty close.
Take yards for instance. Gonzalez ended his career in Kansas City with a franchise leading 10,940 yards while Kelce has 7,234 yards. Gonzalez played in 190 games for the Chiefs and averaged 57.6 yards per game. Travis Kelce has only played 105 games but is averaging 68.9 yards per game. At this rate, when Kelce plays his 190th game, he’ll have passed Gonzalez by 2,116 yards.
What about touchdowns? Gonzalez had a bunch of them; 76 to be exact. He averaged one touchdown in every 2.5 games during his career in Kansas City. Kelce only has 43 but he is averaging a touchdown in every 2.44 games. It is only a couple of decimal points difference, but it proves that Trav has a good shot to catch the hall of fame tight end in that category as well. In fact, Kelce is only four touchdowns away from having the same number of touchdowns (47) that Gonzalez had after his eighth season.
Travis Kelce and Tony Gonzalez both have four 1,000-yard seasons, but Kelce is the only tight end to have four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons according to USA Today. Plus, he’s on pace to get a fifth consecutive one this year. Kelce also has a high catch percentage than Tony Gonzalez. Travis has caught 71.1 percent of his targets, while Tony G only caught 65 percent.
What about their playoff statistics? Obviously, Tony Gonzalez did not have the best playoff success in Kansas City since he only played in three playoff games for the Chiefs and lost all of them. So, when comparing the stats, I took into account his entire playoff career.
Even with a more successful playoff run in Atlanta, Travis Kelce has still played in one more playoff game than Gonzalez. In those games, Kelce has 52 catches for 632 yards and six touchdowns. He has averaged 70.2 yards per game. Gonzalez has 30 catches for 286 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 40.9 yards per game. Even though Tony had only one less playoff game on his resume, his numbers are substantially lower than those of Travis Kelce’s.
Of course, Kelce also has a Super Bowl ring to add to this comparison. He had six receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
Now, it’s not like Travis Kelce is surprising anyone. He has been making big plays his entire career. The thing that is surprising is that he is on a path to be the best to ever do it, passing the current best to ever do it, Tony Gonzalez. In Gonzalez’s defense, he never got to play with Patrick Mahomes. While Trent Green was a solid quarterback, the others were Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, and Tyler Thigpen. Gonzalez was still able to put up Hall of Fame numbers.
However, it won’t be hard to convince some of Chiefs’ fans that Travis Kelce is, or will be, the greatest tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. Many fans were already moving on from Gonzalez after he had said that the Falcons “made” his career.
Gonzalez has since apologized to Chiefs Kingdom but to some, the damage had already been done. Those fans are ready for Travis Kelce to take over as the greatest Chiefs’ tight end ever and possibly the NFL’s greatest tight end as well.