John Mackey was voted the greatest tight end in the NFL’s first 50 years. Mike Ditka and Kellen Winslow were voted as the tight ends on the NFL’s 75th anniversary team.
Now that the NFL has almost 100 seasons in the books, the greatest tight end in the first century of professional football is … Mackey, according to this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll.
Mackey won in the tightest vote in the five-year story of this poll. He received 26 percent of the vote to edge Rob Gronkowski at 25 percent and Tony Gonzalez at 24 percent. Winslow was next at 16.9 percent, followed by Ditka at 7.5 percent.
The three Talk of Fame Network hosts agreed with the poll, for a change, as all cast ballots for Mackey.
“There is John Mackey .. and then all those who belong behind him,” Borges said. “That includes a wide receiver masquerading as a tight end named Tony Gonzalez.”
A second-round selection by the Baltimore Colts in 1963, Mackey made the seam route a staple for the tight end position. He stretched the field, twice averaging better than 20 yards per catch in a season. He scored touchdowns on catches of 89, 68, 62, 61, 54 and 52 yards in his career. Mackey went to five Pro Bowls and was a first-team all-pro three times in his 10-year career. His best seasons were 55 catches in 1967 and 829 yards and nine touchdowns in 1966.
“John Mackey invented the position, and then everyone else followed,” Judge said. “There's a reason they call the collegiate award for the best tight end the John Mackey Award. Because he was the gold standard against whom everyone else was … and is … measured.”
Gronkowski is only in his ninth season but owns the NFL’s single-season position records for receiving yards and touchdowns, catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. A five-time Pro Bowler and a four-time first-team all-pro, Gronkowski has already caught more TD passes (78) than all but two NFL tight ends. Only Gonzalez and Antonio Gates have more.
Gonzalez ranks second all-time in receiving at all positions, behind only Jerry Rice, with 1,352 catches for 15,127 yards. A 14-time Pro Bowlers and six-time first-team all-pro, Gonzalez is one of only three tight ends to catch 100 passes in a single season. Jason Witten and Dallas Clark were the others.