Being the best TE in NFL history and also being one of the classiest players in the game today is a pretty rare combination.
Many NFL executives and coaches will tell you that the best 53 athletes at camp aren't necessarily the players that make up the final 53 man roster. Finding players that have that special mix of athleticism and class is every GM's dream come true.
The Kansas City Chiefs were able to live out this dream when they traded up to draft Tony Gonzalez out of California in the 1997 NFL Draft. Over the course of the offseason, the Chiefs sent Gonzalez to the Falcons that added a great weapon for young QB, Matt Ryan.
Highlighting a 12 year career with the Kansas City Chiefs, Gonzalez was voted to the Pro Bowl 10 straight times. And did I forget to mention that he holds the pretty much every significant record for TEs? Receptions in a season and in a career, TD receptions, and yardage in a career. Seems like he has been able to accomplish everything on the field that one could ask for, right?
Wrong. During his tenure as a Chief, Gonzalez was able to reach the playoffs a total of three times. Winning a stunning zero postseason games.
I won't go as far as saying that these teams didn't have talent, because they did, but they were never built to win championships. Sadly, Carl Peterson, who held the Chiefs hostage for nearly two decades settled for mediocrity.
The Chiefs were never so bad that they were forced into rebuilding mode (until recently) but they were never championship caliber, even after starting one season 9-0 and finished 13-3... The Chiefs failed to meet expectations once again. Marty Schottenheimer and Dick Vermeil were no slouches while wearing the headset, but could never deliver in the postseason.
Tony knew that as every year passed, it was one more year that he would not be holding the Lombardi trophy. Not only that, but after the Herman Edwards honeymoon was over, the wins stopped coming as well.
Gonzalez requested a trade during the 2008 season, and commented numerous times that it was nothing against the Chiefs organization. Time was running out in his career, and he felt that his talents were best suited on a contender. He made it no secret that he wanted to win football games and get the chance to fight for a championship.
The only problem being... How does an NFL GM trade away the face of the franchise, and arguably the best player on the team?
The trade deadline came and went. The Packers had one of the more serious offers on the table for Tony, but the Chiefs declined and continued down the path to a 4-12 record.
Being traded to the Falcons for a secon-round pick this offseason was the best case scenario for both parties. Scott Pioli will enjoy the draft selection as he continues to rebuild the Chiefs franchise and Gonzalez gets to play the remainder of his career with a contender.
While I personally do not see the Falcons reaching the Super Bowl in the '09 season, I would like to think that they can make it to the second round, giving Tony his first playoff victory. It would potentially recharge those batteries a little so that he would be more willing to play in proceeding years.
My Not So Bold Prediction: Matt Ryan will find Tony Gonzalez in 2009, and often.
While it may seem odd seeing Tony Gonzalez, the face of Kansas City for over a decade, suiting up and playing for Atlanta, realize that it wasn't just something that should have happened. It was something that had to happen.