SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a reputation for being a man of a few words, but on Monday he had plenty to say about San Francisco 49ers star tight end George Kittle.
Belichick is very familiar with the value of a tight end having coached Rob Gronkowski for several seasons. The Patriots also bottled up Travis Kelce, limiting him to just 7 catches for 66 yards, in a narrow loss to the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs earlier this month.
So when he was asked to evaluate Kittle during a call with San Francisco Bay Area sports writers Monday in advance of the Pats-49ers game this coming Sunday, he didn’t mince words.
“Kittle is a great player, he does everything well,” Belichick said. “I put him right at the top of the league period. His ability to run, catch, get open, after the catch, block, he does everything at high level. He’s as good as anybody that I have coached or as good as anybody we have played against.”
The 49ers star is also a major cog in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme. Something the game planning Belichick is well aware of.
“He’s got a great skill set and the 49ers put him in a position that really stresses the defense and makes it hard,” Belichick said. “And then they also use him as a decoy to open up things for other guys too.”
“If you pay too much attention to him, that creates opportunities for some of their other outstanding players. If you don’t pay enough attention to him, then he can kill you. He’s in a great system, He’s a great player.”
As to where Kittle ranks in comparison to Kelce and other talented tight ends in the league, Belichick didn’t hesitate.
“I don’t think there’s a better tight end in the league and we’ve seen a lot of good ones and had a lot of good ones,” he said. “I don’t think there is anybody in the league who does everything overall as well as he does. He really doesn’t have any weak points at all. He’s just outstanding at every phase of the game.”
Kittle missed two games this season after being sidelined by a knee injury in the 49ers opening game loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Still he has amassed a team-high 30 receptions (he’s been targeted 38 times) for 380 yards and two touchdowns.
Even more impressively, he has 183 yards after the catch, 3 receptions of 20-plus yards and accounted for 21 first downs.