John Lynch Not Ready to Crown 49ers' George Kittle as NFL's Best Tight End

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2019

FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2018, file photo, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle celebrates after scoring during the second half the team's NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Los Angeles. The hope is that the offense will be even more dynamic with a full season of Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, the speedy Jerick McKinnon at running back after missing the entire season with a knee injury and big-play tight end Kittle, who set a record at the position with 1,377 yards receiving for the season. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

While a breakout 2018 campaign has San Francisco's George Kittle in the conversation for best tight end in the NFL, 49ers general manager John Lynch understands that his star needs a longer track record to earn that title.

Lynch was recently asked by KNBR's Brian Murphy if he believed Kittle was the best tight end in the league. Lynch supported his player but wasn't ready to go that far—yet.

"Well, I believe so," Lynch said, h/t NBC Sports' Matt Maiocco. "I'm also a believer that you...to have those titles you have to lay it down, the kind of year George did, for a number of years. ...So I think I'll reserve judgment. I have strong feelings on the way he played and the way I feel he is going to (play). ...So will kind of say, 'No,' for now. But I certainly believe he has that in him. If he puts up another season like last year, I think we can start talking about titles like that."

Kittle has a strong case after last season.

He earned his first career Pro Bowl selection in 2018 by hauling in 88 receptions for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus' Tyler Loechner, Kittle's six catches of 40-plus yards tripled the next-closest tight end.

Pro Football Focus @PFF

There's plenty to be excited about in San Francisco for the 2019 season – George Kittle is a big part of that. 📽️ : https://t.co/Uiol3hysdL https://t.co/9ApkKcszCi

Pro Football Focus @PFF

George Kittle is a star. https://t.co/JpL7stQ9UP

Not only did he put those numbers up despite starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo playing in just three games, but he was the team's only pass-catcher to record more than 500 receiving yards. In other words, he was San Francisco's only major receiving threat and teams still couldn't contain him.

Kittle was named second-team All-Pro last season.

The biggest argument that would be used against Kittle at this point is his track record—or lack thereof. A fifth-round pick in 2017, he has been in the league for just two years. Meanwhile, the likes of Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce each have six-plus years of experience.

The recent retirement of New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski eliminated one competitor from the race for the "NFL's Best Tight End" title. Although Lynch isn't ready to overreact to a promising start to a career, Kittle will have the opportunity in the coming years to let his numbers do the talking.