Super Bowl ring or no Super Bowl ring, Tony Gonzalez is a legend.
While the Atlanta Falcons tight end is understandably disappointed (via Jay Glazer) about seeing his career likely coming to end without that crowning achievement, he has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
Sure, I—like many others—want to see another year from Gonzalez (via ESPN's Trey Wingo):
Hoping that won't be the last game of Tony Gonzalez career....— trey wingo (@wingoz) January 20, 2013
He is a freak, but like with Jevon Kearse, that's a good thing.
Gonzalez, who has missed two games during his 16-year career, has the ideal combination of talent and physical health. He takes care of his body unlike anyone else and has had the type of career that every NFL player dreams of.
And the type of career that we might never see again.
No matter what team you root for, the man who completely revolutionized the tight end position is simply a joy to watch, and he would probably continue to be so for the next hundred years. Give or take a couple.
Nevertheless, we can't be selfish. If Gonzalez wants to hang up his cleats, no one should be complaining.
I'm not exactly sure what's above a Hall of Fame career, but Gonzalez has had it.
We've already mentioned his durability. He has played in 261 of 263 possible games and looked just as dominant as a 36-year-old as he did as a 24-year-old.
But the production has been downright insane.
Since Gonzalez became a starter in his second season, he has recorded less than 60 catches in a season just once and hit the 90-reception plateau five times. He has also topped 1,000 yards in a season four times and hit double-digit touchdowns thrice.
Overall, Gonzalez has averaged 78 catches, 892 yards and six touchdowns per season. That's a Pro Bowl resume for a tight end, but to average that over a 16-year span is unreal.
The records and awards are even more gaudy.
Gonzalez is second all-time in receptions, seventh in yards, sixth in receiving touchdowns and 18th in total touchdowns.
I don't even need to tell you that he's first in every single one of those categories for tight ends.
Moreover, he's been selected to 13 Pro Bowls and six All-Pro first teams, and he was named to the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team.
If football was an individual sport, maybe you could criticize the former basketball player for never winning a Super Bowl.
But it's not.
Gonzalez has literally accomplished everything physically possible of him and even a few things that would seem impossible for any other player on the planet.
While many will hope for the opposite, the best tight end in the history of the game is free to retire whenever he wants with zero regrets.