Kyle Pitts has a chance at breaking Mike Ditka’s record for receiving yards by a rookie tight end

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Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts has a chance to break a 60-year-old NFL record in the final three weeks of the season.

That record is the most receiving yards by a rookie tight end in a season, set by Chicago’s Mike Ditka in 1961. Ditka set the record with 1,076 receiving yards in 1961, and no one has come within even 100 yards of it in six decades since.

But Pitts is getting close. Through 14 games, Pitts has 847 receiving yards, which is already the fifth-most for a rookie tight end in NFL history. With three more games to go, Pitts is on pace to finish this season with 1,029 yards, which would move him into second place all time, behind only Ditka. If Pitts can pick up the pace just a little bit, he can break Ditka’s record.

It’s worth noting that Ditka set the record in a 14-game season, while Pitts is hoping to break it in 17 games. It’s also worth noting that Pitts is playing in an era that makes life easier for tight ends and receivers: This year NFL teams are averaging 231.8 passing yards per game; in 1961 NFL teams averaged 180.5 passing yards per game.

So Ditka’s rookie season remains the gold standard for rookie tight ends. But it speaks well for Pitts that he’s coming close to a record that has stood for so long.

29 responses to “Kyle Pitts has a chance at breaking Mike Ditka’s record for receiving yards by a rookie tight end

  1. Mike Ditka was a Tight End who actually lined up tight to the formation, you know like a tight end. Pitts is a slot WR like most TEs today. He is barely ever asked to block and more often than not lines up in the slot or even on the outside.

  2. And the Falcons still stink. The Lions just beat AZ without their top 10 TE pick. Total luxury position.

  3. Ditka was from an era of smash mouth football when a tight end was an offensive lineman. Running the ball was primary. Even wide receivers seldom amassed that kind of yardage. For a tight end to do so was amazing. Add that to the fact that Ditka was a great blocker, run and pass. The closest to Ditka today is Gronk. The one HOF, the other will be.

  4. I have a lot more respect for Ditka after reading this. I didn’t know he held that record. I just remember watching clips of him with the ball steamrolling guys like a fullback. What he did was nothing short of amazing that the record has stood for six decades. Amazing.

  5. So the 14 game record still stands.

    If he gains more than 1,076 it will be in more games and a different record.

  6. This is what happens when you play in an NFL black hole like Atlanta. Did anyone know he was having this good of a season outside of Atlanta? Anyone?

  7. Weird how we just casually dismiss the number of games played. I wondered immediately when the 17 game season was announced how we would handle records being broken. Cant wait until we start talking about ones we care about — like that rushing record Dickerson has held for what feels like my entire life.

  8. @BuckyBadger

    Tight Ends block now more than they ever did because the full back position has diminished over the years. Ditka got that record because back then, WRs weren’t divas and didn’t ask for all the throws to be going to them.

  9. Between Fields and a seemingly bust looking TE, they aren’t scaring anyone. And with a 17 game season vs 14 games, those are two different records.

  10. @BayAreaBrownsBacker, if you think TEs have more blocking assignments now than before you need to watch some film to understand this game. How many times has Pitts lined up as a FB? How often is asked to stay in to block or even chip a player? In Ditka’s day he would spend more time with the OL then he would with the pass catchers.

  11. It is easy to say things like these individuals did this in 14 games but let’s kid ourselves. People like Jim Brown and Mike Ditka are the modern-day Derrick Henry. If Mike played in this era with his size, he would get run over more than he ran people over. If Kyle Pitts played in the ’60s, no one on the field would be able to match with his size and speed. In this era, we have more evenly matched teams, which is why it takes longer to break records. I couldn’t even imagine the lackluster conditioning people had back in the ’60s. You will often hear people say they used training camp to get into shape. If you did that now, there is good chance you will be cut. Ditka was excellent in his era, and so far, Pitts shows he has the potential, but let’s stop comparing the era.

  12. No matter how good Pitts turns out to be, the Falcons should have picked a QB which is a more important position.

  13. If he manages to break it by the end of week 16, I don’t want to hear anything about any asterisks

  14. Put your comment of “in 1961 NFL teams averaged 180.5 passing yards per game” into perspective. Ditka finished his college career at Pitt with 45 passes for 730 yards and seven touchdowns. Totals for his college CAREER, a career that ended in 1960. To do what he did in 1961 is phenomenal for a position that was more grunt than finesse and a whole lot more in the trenches work versus handling the ball. Pitts may get the yards but it is a different game now. Iron Mike’s numbers for the style game they played won’t be beat.

  15. springfield says:
    December 21, 2021 at 1:20 pm
    Between Fields and a seemingly bust looking TE, they aren’t scaring anyone.

    ——-

    You realize Pitts and Fields are on two different teams…right?

  16. Not remotely the same record pitts is looking to set the 17 game mark for most yards by a rc tightend not break mikes.

  17. BuckyBadger says:
    December 21, 2021 at 1:31 pm
    @BayAreaBrownsBacker, if you think TEs have more blocking assignments now than before you need to watch some film to understand this game. How many times has Pitts lined up as a FB? How often is asked to stay in to block or even chip a player? In Ditka’s day he would spend more time with the OL then he would with the pass catchers.

    ———————

    Can’t say in general about all the great TE out there today but Kittle is as much an exceptional blocker as he’s receiving weapon. He relishes blocking is very good at it. He’s probably the most complete TE in the game today. No disrespect to any other TE.

  18. I didn’t know Blowhard Mike was in the record books. I’m even more surprised he doesn’t mention it every time he’s interviewed.

  19. Miami got very lucky.

    Pitts and Chase seem like they will be really good NFL players and I wanted Pitts the most…However…..Waddle was/is the home run selection of the three.

    No question before the draft Pitts was the preference for me.

    No question that right now I wouldn’t even consider trading Waddle for Pitts or Chase.

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