Fantasy Football News

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Best to Ever Play the Position: Tony Gonzalez Deserves More Respect

In the wake of Super Bowl week, all the talk has been centered around New England's tight end Rob Gronkowski. Will he play, or will he sit? After spraining his ankle after an awkward tackle against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship, Gronk has been seen in a walking boot earlier this week.

When seen at yesterday's Media Day, the second-year pro had taken off the walking boot. But after missing practice again today (only two practice days remain before Super Sunday) the question still lingers.

Personally I don't see him missing the game. No way he will allow himself to miss what will be the biggest game/day of his life...especially considering what he means to this New England offense.

Gronk, 22, has blossomed in to perhaps the league's most well-known tight end within about a season. He broke on to the football scene with 546 yards and 10 TDs as a rookie in 2010, but he followed that up with a record-setting performance in 16 games this season: 90 receptions, 1,327 yards and 17 TDs. The single greatest season ever put together by a tight end. He led the league in receiving TDs and set TE records for most yards and most TDs.
The sudden stardom of the bruising 6'6'' and 265 pound end has led to the expression "Gronk'd." His powerful spike, in celebration of a TD, has been known as a Gronkowski trademark by many, and he even has t-shirts and songs in dedication to his athletic ability and on-field success–mainly in the New England area.

This has made for a sad, sad day in Kansas City and Atlanta. The two cities that the 12-time Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez has played in. Still a Falcon, the 35 going-on-36-year old veteran has lost his touch. He has put up 15 hard-working and well-fought seasons, starting 222 career games and missing just one start since 1998 (he didn't start any games in his rookie season, 1997).

Gonzalez has already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and he doesn't even think he's going to retire for another couple of seasons. Yet new faces such as Gronk, New Orleans' second-year pro Jimmy Graham, New England's Aaron Hernandez and San Francisco's Vernon Davis have stolen the spotlight away from the blue collar Gonzo.

The worst part, in my opinion, is that I don't think it even really bothers Gonzalez at all. Young kids have seemed to have chosen Gronk as their hero, rather than Gonzalez. I'm not trying to take anything away from Gronk and Graham, or anyone else, because they have played hard and deserve some credit as well. But I'm disappointed that fans have seemingly overlooked perhaps one of the league's greatest receiving tight end of all time.

The NFL has recently put together an official magazine (NFL the Magazine) to which I have subscribed to. The most recent issue–just the second one made, actually–had an article in it written by Lisa Altobelli that I think everyone who calls themself an NFL fan needs to read.

Of course I was well aware of what Gonzo has done for the league before I read the article, but the article reiterates his greatness and reassures fans that his loss of the spotlight hasn't phased him one bit. Just like every other season, Gonzalez prepares the same way and goes about his business. According to the article, as well, his teammates have started calling him "Low-key Tony G," which is very fitting for the calm-minded Tony.

What has he done over his decade-and-a-half of play? Simple, he has racked up 1,149 receptions, 13,338 yards and 95 TDs. His reception total is second all-time to the great Jerry Rice, his yardage total 11th all-time and his TD total is 9th all-time (he is six away from passing Steve Largent at No. 6). All three categories rank No. 1 among every other tight end to ever play the game.

What I like most about him, however, is his humbleness and the fact that he focuses more on his blocking techniques than his catching ability because obviously run blocking is No. 1 priority for all tight ends. Their second responsibility is catching passes. He's first one in the facility and often the last one out, according to many of his teammates as well.
What I believe is the reason for his lack of respect among NFL fans, and some experts too, is that he's never really been in those big games. In fact, he's never been fortunate to win a playoff game. In five tries, Gonzo is 0-5 in postseason play. But that's not his fault!

Gonzo hasn't exactly been the brightest star in those postseason games (16 Rec., 157 yards, 2 TDs, 9.8 YPR), but the tight end isn't going to be the game-changer in a big playoff game. He's never really been on an exceptional team and he's actually never really had an exceptional quarterback throwing him passes.

There's Matt Ryan in Atlanta right now, but he's only been there for three seasons. In Kansas City 1997-2008 Gonzo's best quarterback was probably Trent Green ('01-'06). Other than Green, Gonzo had the likes of Elvis Grbac, Rich Gannon, Tyler Thigpen and Damon Huard throwing him passes. Gronkowski/Hernandez, Graham and Jason Witten, who did they have throwing them passes? Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Tony Romo. Even Vernon Davis has had a more capable arm in Alex Smith throwing him the ball (despite 2011 being his first solid season).

The fact Gonzalez has been so healthy, reliable and productive throughout his career with below-average signal callers throwing him passes just makes me respect him even more. Catching passes over defenders seems to come naturally for the 6'5'' former basketball standout.

So, before we go naming Gronk the greatest tight end ever, and possibly a future HOFer (in his second season) if he goes out there on Sunday and rocks New York's defense, lets not forget about poor old Gonzo down south in Atlanta.

Photo credit
With Atlanta: Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
With Kansas City: borrowed from Sports Crunch

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