All that is, of course, easier said than done. Griffin sure looked like the long-term answer in Washington for a year, but a serious knee injury, struggles with a changing offensive system (and the head coach who installed it), and the performance of Kirk Cousins (in 2015) led to his leaving the team this offseason. The turmoil he’s gone through during his short career led Brown to compare Griffin to … well, the Browns.
“He’s a little bit the mirror image of us, where he’s got a chip on his shoulder, there’s a lot of noise about him on the outside, and he’s a tremendous teammate, really passionate about football, wants to learn and get better, wants to be coached hard, wants to be the best he can be,” Brown said. “He’s proven that. He’s done it before, but he knows also that he’s proven he’s got a lot of growth left for him to become the consistent player that we need him to be and he wants to be.”
The 2015 Denver Broncos had the best defense in the NFL. They led the league in total yards allowed, yards allowed per play, yards allowed per drive, and points allowed per drive. They also led in more advanced statistics like Pro-Football-Reference’s expected points contributed and Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which adjusts performance for down, distance, and opponent). They were the eighth-best defense in Football Outsiders’ entire database, which goes back to 1989. Basically what we’re trying to say here is: they were really damn good.
So when a player on another team says that his defense can be as good as the 2015 Broncos, he’s making quite a claim. And that’s exactly what Raiders star Khalil Mackdid on Saturday.
“The 49ers organization has been incredibly supportive throughout my journey and I cannot thank them and the support staff enough. I am especially grateful to the strength and conditioning coaches, trainers and medical staff, equipment guys, public relations crew, chefs, logistics, and merchandise staff for their countless hours helping me in many different ways, so I could focus on football. Thank you to the fans from down under, as well as those around the world, who stood behind me and supported me along this amazing journey. I also want to thank the boys, especially my running back brothers, for their help and support in my transition to the NFL. I wish the team nothing but the best for the upcoming season.
Based on this chart, we can pretty safely say that Gronk will not retire as the all-time leader in catches as a tight end. His career high in catches for a single season is 90 (set in 2011) and he’d have to average more than 14 additional catches per year on top of that for the next 11 seasons in order to catch Gonzalez. Considering Gronk has played an average of 13.3 games per year so far in his career, he’d have to raise his catches per-game average from 4.8 to 7.8 in order to reach 104.1 per year. That’s almost definitely not going to happen.
Receiving yards is a tighter battle. Gronk has so far average 925.8 receiving yards per season in his six years in the league. If he kept exactly that average, he’d catch Gonzalez during his age-37 season (2026). That would be pretty poetic, but it’s also likely that Gronk will average more receiving yards per season than that over the next few years, because that average includes a season in which he played only seven games. In the five seasons that Gronk has played at least 11 games, he’s averaged 992.6 receiving yards per game. That kind of average would put him on track to break the record early in his age-36 season (2025). It’ll be tough, but it’s possible.
49ers general manager Trent Baalke also released a statement:
“We would like to thank Jarryd for his contributions to the San Francisco 49ers organization and our community over the last year. Jarryd is a tremendous example of what can happen when you commit to a goal and do everything in your power to make it a reality. He earned the right to wear a 49ers uniform and compete alongside the best in the game. We fully support Jarryd’s decision to pursue another dream – representing the Fiji Rugby Sevens team in this summer’s Olympic games. We look forward to watching him in Rio and wish him continued success.”
Of course, Gronk’s pace will also be affected by the presence or absence of Tom Brady. The future Hall of Famer has been the QB under center for every one of Gronk’s games so far, and Gronk’s statistics will undoubtedly take a hit if and when someone else takes over. Luckily for Gronk’s sake, Brady has stated his intention to play 10 more years, which would mean he’d stay under center until 2025.