If there were five faces…
It’s extremely hard to leave Kellen Winslow off this list, so that’s why he’s being included as an honorable mention. He was that good. If this list was made 30 years ago, he might be the first name people would include.
To this day, NFL teams want the tight end that is more like a wide receiver, too big for a defensive back and too fast for a linebacker. Winslow was the man that redefined the tight end position.
His career was limited to nine seasons, but he put up some gaudy numbers in that time. For his career, he caught 541 passes for 6,741 yards and five touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl five times in nine seasons.
Of course, you can’t talk about Winslow without bringing up his most memorable performance, the ‘Epic in Miami’. Playing against the Miami Dolphins in the playoffs following the 1981 seasons, he hauled in 13 passes, a playoff record at the time, for 166 yards and a touchdown. There are those who would have him on a Chargers Mount Rushmore for that performance alone.
In the 1981 season, he caught five touchdown passes in a game against the Oakland Raiders. To this day, he is one of three players to ever accomplish that feat.
In 2010, NFL Films put together a list (video) of the top 100 players in history. Winslow came in at No. 67 on that list. He should be remembered as one of the most dynamic tight ends in league history and if you would include him on this list, I wouldn’t argue it much.
The same goes for Antonio Gates. Arguably the best tight end in NFL history, that says a lot about the four guys ahead of him on this list.
Gates has played his entire career with the Chargers and may not be done yet. As reliable a target in the passing game as the team has ever had, he’s also caught more touchdown passes than any tight end in history.
Only five players in NFL history have more catches and more receiving yards than Gates, a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer. Because of those facts, it is even harder to leave him off the mountain than it is Winslow, and that’s saying something.
As such, if he makes your Mount Rushmore, I’d have little argument. That’s what made putting this list together so difficult.