Chief Concerns: Desmond Bailey
Tony Gonzalez – if he happens upon this article – will learn I’ve been involved in a few near-physical confrontations defending his prowess as a tight end in the National Football League.This happens when you’re a hardcore Kansas City Chiefs fan residing in Southern California – behind enemy lines (Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers). Drinking in sports bars dedicated to west coast teams doesn’t help.
Chiefs vs Raiders or Chargers…the bar packed with heavily boozed fans of either of those respective teams….and here I am with a bright-red Derrick Thomas jersey. Yeah….formula for a brawl. I didn’t care…still don’t.
If anybody tells me Tony Gonzalez isn’t the best tight end in the NFL then I kindly reply with words. Should the debate continue….depending on my level of sobriety…things could escalate to where hand-to-hand combat is utilized. Am I a passionate fan or a drunken idiot? You decide…on today’s episode of…“The People’s Court”….*Duh Dun-Dun!…..Duh-Dun Dun Dun!*.
Maybe that’s a bit extreme but it’s an illustration of just how much I admire Gonzalez’ greatness and appreciate his contributions through 12 seasons as a Chief. Many so-called “great” tight-ends have come and gone during Gonzalez’ career. And when I say ‘gone’ I don’t mean out of the NFL. I’m referring to Gonzalez’ contemporaries falling from elite to simply good and…in some cases…mediocrity.
Todd Heap, Jason Witten, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, Vernon Davis ….if I’m missing somebody then feel free to respond and add to the list. Those are the names I recall off the top of my head as players who were, at one time or another, considered as good as or better than Tony Gonzalez. The truth always comes to light and the truth is these guys never were on Gonzalez’ level.
We can look at stats all we want. But it makes things too easy in Gonzalez’ favor, plus I don’t need them for this argument because the three things that separate Gonzalez from the aforementioned group are consistency and durability which ultimately adds up to a third and arguably the most critical factor – longevity. I don’t know how he does it. I just know those other guys haven’t been able to.
He’s done it…for sixteen seasons while missing only two games!….TWO! And playing at an ELITE level…week-in and week-out…and producing no matter what his surrounding cast consisted of, who his coach was, or what type of scheme he played in. Best of all, he left everything on the field.
Where does that come from? Competitiveness? Fear of failure or of being average? Is it a Championship?…I’d guess ‘all of the above’ with each being THE answer depending on which season you’re talking about. Outside of the Dick Vermeil era, Gonzalez put up receiver-like numbers on teams he had to know stood absolutely no chance at a winning season, let-alone a Super Bowl Title.
I’m sure there were days …games…practices…where he took a knee on the sideline and pondered the what-ifs:…..what if he had one or, dare he say it, two premiere WR’s to take some heat off of him?…what if the Chiefs had a playoff caliber defense?…what if the Chiefs had a starting QB worth a damn?
He needn’t ponder anymore. He’s had those questions answered but, unfortunately, not with the team that originally drafted him out of Cal in 1997. The football Gods – weary of letting Gonzalez toil in futility for an organization content simply with filling stadium seats with ’88′ jersey’s – granted him what he’s desperately needed and deserved…a real chance. After 16 selfless and grueling seasons – 15 of which have kept Gonzalez’ ultimate goal just out of reach - the carrot dangles before him yet again.
When Gonzalez and the Atlanta Falcons take on the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship tomorrow afternoon, it will either be the last time he takes the field or he’ll once again shed tears of victory and triumph after earning a trip to Super Bowl XLVII. I’m rooting for him and know he’ll give nothing short of his all. Regardless of the outcome, Gonzalez is and always has been the best Tight End in the NFL. Disagree? Meet me outside…
Talk to ya, later…