Tony Gonzalez wanted out.
Who could blame him?
It was early 2009 and the Kansas City Chiefs were rebuilding again. GM Carl Peterson and head coach Herm Edwards were on their way out and new GM Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley were in. With the end of his career in sight, it was easy to see why Gonzalez wasn’t interested in stomaching another rebuilding process. After all, he likely wouldn’t be around to see it all pay off.
So Gonzalez asked for a trade and Pioli obliged, sending the future Hall of Fame TE to Atlanta for a second-round draft pick.
On paper, it was a brilliant trade.
The Falcons got a veteran player to help them get over the playoff hump and the Chiefs got a high draft pick for a TE (a TE!) at the very end of his career.
In theory, the trade worked out better for the Falcons than it did for the Chiefs. Gonzalez helped Atlanta win a playoff game and the fact that the Falcons haven’t yet made it to the Super Bowl can’t really be blamed on Tony. The “Ageless Wonder” as some call him, has played very well down south and while he isn’t the same player he was in his prime, he is still one of the top TEs in the NFL.
As for the Chiefs, well they used the pick acquired in the Gonzalez trade to draft CB Javier Arenas, who was recently traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a FB.
After three years in Atlanta, Gonzalez still came up short of a championship. Despite telling anyone who would listen that 2012 was his last ride, Gonzalez was coaxed out of retirement by an Atlanta team that many felt could once again contend for a Super Bowl in 2013.
Tony was still chasing that ring. Can you blame him?
Unfortunately for Gonzalez, the only thing you can count on in the NFL is that you can’t count on anything.
The Falcons are faltering in 2013 and are off to a 1-4 start. WR Julio Jones is lost for the season. The team’s running game is faltering, thanks to an injury to offseason-acquisition Steven Jackson. Atlanta’s division rival, the New Orleans Saints, are 5-0. To top it all off, the Falcons defense can’t seem to stop anyone and the team just suffered a soul-crushing loss to the New York Jets. Not to take anything away from New York but the Falcons D just got shredded by a rookie QB and guys named Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland.
That brings us to the question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind Monday night as the Falcons were falling to the Jets.
Should the Chiefs get Gonzo back from Atlanta?
It isn’t a crazy thought to have. Gonzalez is still playing at a very high level and is once again stuck on a team that appears to be going nowhere. The Chiefs are 5-0 and are sporting a championship-caliber defense but a very mediocre offense.
Gonzalez to the Chiefs is a deal that should go down.
But it won’t.
The reasons the trade makes sense for Kansas City are numerous.
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The Chiefs can’t move the football. Despite the 5-0 record, Kansas City has yet to find any real swagger on offense. KC’s success is not a mirage but the team is currently relying way too much on defensive and special teams scoring to keep itself from losing. At some point, the Chiefs are going to face an opponent that won’t turn the ball over and won’t allow a special teams score, and when that day comes, I’m not sure the Kansas City offense will be up to the task.
The Chiefs, as they are currently constructed, are a playoff team. With a little luck, they very well could be the 2012 Baltimore Ravens. Without it, they could be the 2010 Chiefs.
Remember the 2010 Chiefs? Beneficiaries of an easy schedule, solid defense and mostly error-free, yet unspectacular QB play, the 2010 Chiefs started the season 3-0 on their way to a 10-6 finish and an AFC West Championship. It wasn’t until the playoffs that the team’s deficiencies were significantly magnified. KC has one legitimate receiving threat in Dwayne Bowe and the Ravens knew it.
Baltimore 30, Chiefs 7.
The good news is that this Chiefs team is better than the 2010 squad. The 2013 Chiefs have a much better coach, a much better defense and a much better QB.
But there is still a lack of reliable weapons on offense and that is likely to catch up to the team in the postseason.
Gonzalez wouldn’t turn the Chiefs into the greatest show on turf but he’d provide another dimension to an offense that is struggling to score and capitalize on defensive turnovers and favorable field position.
Chiefs QB Alex Smith is a between-the-numbers passer. He doesn’t like to go outside very often, which is one of the primary reasons WR Dwayne Bowe is having such a mediocre season. Smith is more accurate and more comfortable throwing across the middle and checking down to his TE.
The Chiefs are in bad shape at TE. Upstart Sean McGrath has been exciting but at this early stage of his career, he isn’t fit to carry Gonzalez’s jock strap. Free agent Anthony Fasano is a good blocker and sports decent hands when he is on the field…which he rarely has been. Finally, rookie Travis Kelce has missed so much time that putting him on the field now is going to be a big risk.
Gonzalez, even at his advanced age, demands the attention of defenses. He doesn’t drop the football, and he runs very precise routes. His presence on the field would mean more favorable matchups all across the offense. Guys like Dexter McCluster, Donnie Avery and Jamaal Charles would be twice as dangerous to defenses with Gonzo roaming the middle, drawing the eye of linebackers and safeties. In the red zone, an area where the Chiefs are struggling mightily, there is no one better than Gonzalez.
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The AFC playoff contenders are not particularly impressive. This Chiefs team, as it is currently constructed, could do some serious damage in the postseason. New England, Miami, Houston and Indianapolis all look beatable. The Chiefs appear to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the AFC. In fact, they might be the favorites, if not for one team.
The Denver Broncos.
What Peyton Manning is doing in Denver this year is unbelievable. As good as the KC defense is, it’s going to need more firepower to beat the Broncos in January.
I’ve seen some Chiefs fans scoffing at the idea of bringing in Tony, claiming that they’d rather that the team go out and get another receiver, rather than a TE. This confuses me, considering Gonzalez is second only to Jerry Rice in total yards among NFL receivers all-time. I’ve got news for you folks, Gonzalez is a receiver.
And he is a receiver that runs routes exactly where Alex Smith likes to throw the ball.
The Chiefs likely wouldn’t have to give up much to acquire Gonzalez, that is to say, if the Falcons were willing. This likely truly is Tony’s last ride and Atlanta clearly has some serious problems on defense. A seventh-round pick or even a young, developmental defensive player is a steal for a guy that is just a few games away from hanging up his cleats for good.
As for the Chiefs, late draft picks in most cases are grossly overvalued by both GMs and fans. The odds are just about the same that the Chiefs will find a few diamonds in the rough in some undrafted free agents as they will with a sixth or seventh-round pick. Sorry, but I’ll take Tony Gonzalez, even for one game, over TE Michael Merritt (KC’s 2008 seventh-round pick) any day.
The bottom line is that a returning Tony Gonzalez would make the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs better on the field and in the locker room. McGrath and Kelce would benefit from even being in the same room as Gonzalez and the leadership that a battle-tested, future Hall of Famer, could bring to the the offense isn’t easy to come by.
And if you think Arrowhead Stadium is rocking for Sean McGrath and his beard (and his one career TD), that is nothing compared to how loud it will get when Gonzalez does one more football dunk in red and gold.
Alas, as much sense as it makes, Gonzalez likely won’t be seen in a Chiefs jersey again.
For starters, the Chiefs don’t have a ton of salary cap space. They couldn’t afford to take on Gonzo’s contract in a trade which would mean either Atlanta would have to eat a portion of the deal or the Chiefs would need to convince the veteran to renegotiate his deal. You might be able to get that to work in Madden 25’s franchise mode, but pulling it off in real life might prove to be a bit more tricky.
Money aside, as I mentioned above, GMs way overvalue draft picks. If Atlanta’s GM called up John Dorsey right now and offered up Tony for a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft, Dorsey would probably say no. All GMs seem to be convinced that they’re going to be able to find the next Tom Brady in the late rounds or make a monster deal to move up and grab a player by packaging their late draft picks.
It will also be very hard for Atlanta’s brass to admit that their season is over, which is exactly what they’d be doing by trading away Gonzo. While I have a better shot at scoring a date with Kate Upton than the Falcons have of making the playoffs after a 1-4 start, the fact that there are some truly awful teams in the NFC means that Atlanta is only a couple of games out of the Wild Card race. It will likely take a couple more losses before the Falcons lose hope and even then it is hard to imagine Atlanta waving the white flag.
Finally, Gonzalez himself has gone on the record as saying that he has no interest in being traded.
I don’t see there is any way that Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff would move Gonzo against his will. Then again, what Gonzalez says publicly and what he says privately are two different things. Even if Gonzalez did want to leave Atlanta, he wouldn’t say so to a reporter.
Gonzalez coming back to Kansas City this season would undoubtedly help the Chiefs. It really could even push them into the Super Bowl. It makes sense. It really does.
But for many reasons, including those mentioned above, neither team is likely to have the guts to make it happen.
So for now, Gonzalez will likely have go out with a whimper and not a bang.
And the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs will have to go out with a beard…and hope he can hang on to the ball.
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