Hollywood looks. Vegan shakes. Commitment ceremonies. Flirtations with the NBA. Infatuation with the Cali way. Not exactly your typical Midwestern good ol’ boy. From the start, the California Kid stuck out like a sore thumb in Kansas City. Tony G wasn’t like Larry Johnson, disliked from the start, or Jared Allen, beloved from the start. He was somewhere in between.
Despite all that, Tony Gonzalez strung together a decade’s worth of Pro Bowls in his 12 years with the Chiefs to become one of the most popular players in team history. Make no mistake about it; he will enter our Ring of Honor and the NFL Hall of Fame as a Chief. I, for one, will still rock my No. 88 jersey at Arrowhead, and do so proudly.
I met Gonzalez on several occasions and he was always a super nice guy. Seldom will you find a professional athlete who is such a pillar both on the field and off it in the community. Tony G was exactly that for 12 years, and if you ask me he earned every cent we paid him and more. You were as likely to see him at the Plaza as you were in the endzone, and he dunked on the goalposts quite often. Tony G became an unlikely football version of George Brett to Kansas Citians. Let’s not forget that because things didn’t work out after 12 years.
Now, the big question on everybody’s lips: why move the greatest tight end in NFL history for a second-round pick, and a 2010 one at that?
Why? Because it makes sense.
Tony didn’t want to be a Chief any longer. Sure, part of him did. The guy was the heart and soul of the Red and Gold for a decade plus. He played hurt and he played well, and he did so pretty much every single Sunday. He also loved the city and Chiefs fans, so he didn’t want to hurt them. That’s why he tried to handle this situation as delicately as possible. Just look at what he said following the trade:
“It’s somewhat bittersweet,” Gonzalez told FOXSports.com exclusively. “I love Kansas City. I grew up in Kansas City. The city means a lot to me. I got there when I turned 21. It will be sad to leave a city I love. But I’m looking forward to making a Super Bowl run in Atlanta every year for the next three or four years.”
But during his time in K.C., Tony only played with one quality quarterback (two if you can’t Rich Gannon’s limited tenure). For about 60-70% of his time in Kansas City Gonzalez was making hack quarterbacks look better than they were. I can’t imagine how frustrating that was for him.
Do you think Jerry Rice would have set every WR record without two Hall of Fame quarterbacks — Joe Montana and Steve Young? No, and keep in mind that I consider Rice, along with Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor, the greatest football player ever. Gonzo broke nearly every TE record in the book with Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard, Elvis Grbac, Rich Gannon, Trent Green and Tyler Thigpen throwing to him. Not only is there not a HoFer in that group, but he didn’t have the continuity with his quarterbacks that Rice or other great tight ends like Kellen Winslow Sr. and Shannon Sharpe enjoyed.
The Chiefs added Matt Cassel about two-three years late into Tony’s career. That’s the biggest problem. The Chiefs really did Tony wrong by giving him Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard during the tail end of his prime. Giving Tony those two quarterbacks would be like giving Megan Fox lingerie from K-Mart.
The Chiefs also did Tony wrong by re-signing him to a multi-year contract and assuring him they weren’t rebuilding. From where I’m sitting, Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards lied to Tony. I think they knew that they were rebuilding. They also knew Tony was a loyal soldier, one who would likely bite the bullet as long as they could rebuild in three years time. They couldn’t. Considering that, can you blame Tony for wanting out when the new rebuilding effort will take at least two years?
From the perspective of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, they have to clean up the ginormous mess King Carl and his jester Harm made. That mess includes Tony G. He made it clear he didn’t want to be a leader for the new Chiefs when he skipped minicamp. He also has made it clear that he wanted to play for a contender. So, in one fell swoop the Pioli Trinity granted Tony Gonzalez’s wishes and received more than adequate value for him in return.
A second-rounder, no matter the year, is great compensation for the aging TE. Seriously, we gave up the same thing for a 26-year-old potential franchise QB and an aging Pro Bowl linebacker. This is a great deal for the Chiefs that might allow them to be more aggresive in this draft’s trade market. Also, the Pioli Trinity has to create a locker room full of Chiefs who are completely on board with the new direction of the franchise. Tony G. wasn’t on board at all, and after suffering through the Harm era can you blame him?
I’m sad to see Tony Gonzalez go, and it will hurt like hell to see him in another shade of Red. But he’s earned the chance to play for a championship. Also, the colors on our jerseys are more important than the name and number on the back. If this makes Tony happy and accelerates our rebuilding process, then I am totally on board with it. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. Still, we will never forget No. 88, the greatest tight end to strap on his chinstrap and play the game. We wish you well in Atlanta with the Falcons, Tony!
P.S. – Those of you who are upset, give the Pioli Trinity the entire weekend before you pass judgment. That’s all I ask. This is just the first of what I’m guessing will be many moves over the course of this draft weekend.
P.S.S. – We really need Michael Crabtree now. Maybe even Chase Coffman. Don’t prematurely ejaculate, Tigers fans.
P.S.S.S. – Check out my new NFL Draft Positional Ranking Score (PRS) System over on NFL Mocks. Yet another case for why we should pass on Curry — his position simply doesn’t hold top-ten value. The last decade of drafts proves that.