The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-17 on National Tight End Day. During the game, there was plenty of praise for KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes who put up 424 yards passing and four touchdowns in the game. While Travis Kelce was also one of the stars of the game, somehow his relationship with Taylor Swift (who the cameras showed constantly) continues to be a bigger story than just how great he is as a player.
While it's understandable that an NFL star dating arguably the biggest entertainer on the planet would be a huge story, it shouldn't overshadow Kelce's greatness. In fact, between dating Swift, having one of the top podcasts in the entire world, and hosting (and guest appearing) on Saturday Night Live you can make a strong case that Kelce is crossing over from athlete to celebrity.
While media attention on this level is almost always a good thing and Kelce is no doubt financially benefitting from the exposure, the tabloid/celebrity nature of it all may actually be taking away from the fact that Kelce's play and production continues to be unlike anything the NFL has ever seen. While many will still point to Rob Gronkowski as the most dominant tight end they've ever seen and former Chief Tony Gonzalez still comfortably holds most of the career tight end records, the argument for Kelce as the GOAT (Greatest of all Time) tight end is getting stronger and stronger and was on full display again against the Chargers again on Sunday.
Kelce finished the game with 12 receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown. That now gives Kelce 48 receptions, 525 yards, and 4 touchdowns on the season. It bears mentioning that Kelce missed week one of the season. That means if he continues his pace over his first six games over the final 10 games, he would put up 136 receptions for 1,487 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The NFL record for receptions in a season for a tight end is 116 by Zach Ertz. The most receiving yards in a season in NFL history is 1,416 by Kelce back in 2020. So as a 34-year-old tight end, Kelce is on pace to break the records for receptions and yards in a season for a tight end despite missing the first game of the season.
While that many receptions and yards would obviously be career highs if they're NFL records, they aren't even that out of character for Kelce. Just last season as a 33 year old he put up 110 receptions for 1,338 yards and 12 touchdowns. It's staggering just how productive Kelce has consistently been over his career and he somehow continues to find ways to get better. If Kelce does stay healthy and ends up with another 1,000-yard receiving season, it will be his 8th consecutive one. No other tight end in NFL history has more than four total 1,000-yard seasons, let alone consecutive ones.
People talk about Gronkowski's greatness, but he only had four 1,000-yard seasons, never topped 100 receptions in a season (Kelce has already done it three times), and only topped 80 receptions in a season twice in 11 seasons. Tony Gonzalez's Hall of Fame career was consistently good, but in his 17 seasons, he only topped 1,000 yards four times and only topped 100 receptions once. In other words, Kelce could finish this season with as many consecutive 1,000-yard seasons as the other two best tight ends in the history of football have total between them in their combined 28 seasons played. Stop and think about that for a second.
At one point in their win over the Chargers, Patrick Mahomes had a string of 28 straight completions when targeting Kelce dating back to Week 5. Is part of that due to Mahomes' greatness? Of course, but given how Chiefs' wide receivers have struggled this season, defenses know they can key in on Kelce. The fact that he continues to get open time and time again despite that is staggering. That number of 28 straight completions when targeting Kelce despite K.C. not having any other major pass-catching options is definitive proof of just how brilliant Kelce is at finding holes in zone coverage and shaking man coverage. No tight end has ever been better at it. Period.
If that's somehow still not enough to impress you, the Mahomes to Kelce touchdown against the Chargers was the 50th between the two. That's the most prolific tandem in Chiefs history and the fourth-highest total for a quarterback and tight end in NFL history despite the fact that they've only played a little over five seasons together with Mahomes as the starter.
Has Kelce benefitted from playing with Patrick Mahomes and under Andy Reid? Of course, but his individual greatness is now above approach. What he has done throughout his career is pure football brilliance and the fact that he's on pace to have another career year at age 34 is unfathomable. His larger-than-life personality, hit podcast, and mega-star girlfriend may have turned up the spotlight on him, but don't let all of that distract from what he once again showed on the field against the Chargers, that he's the best tight end to ever play the game.