Let’s just get all the stats on Tony Gonzalez out of the way:
13-time Pro Bowl, 10-time All Pro, first tight end in NFL history to ever catch 1000 passes, and 2-time NFL Alumni tight end of the year.
Career NFL leader for tight ends in receiving yards, receptions, TD receptions, 1,000 yard receiving seasons, most consecutive seasons with 70+ receptions, and consecutive starts.
Believe it or not, those are just the highlights.
Today Tony Gonzalez will run through the tunnel onto the field at the Georgia Dome for what could be the final time, because win or lose, Gonzalez has stated–since the start of the season–that he is 95% sure that this will be his final season.
Last week when the Atlanta Falcons beat the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoff game, it marked the first time that Gonzalez had been on the winning end of an NFL playoff game in his 16-year career. A win by the Falcons today against the San Francisco 49ers would propel Gonzalez into his first ever Super Bowl.
The question remains, what about that 5% chance of returning? Would it take yet another playoff disappointment for Gonzalez to return and take care of unfinished business, or will at least getting to (if not winning) the Super Bowl give him the motivation to keep going for one or more seasons beyond 2012.
When Gonzalez left his long-time team, the Kansas City Chiefs, to come to Atlanta in 2009, it was with the thought of finally breaking through and winning the championship. The Falcons have benefited tremendously from having Gonzalez as a weapon, and it could be argued that they wouldn’t be in the position of playing for their 2nd Super Bowl berth in franchise history without Gonzalez.
Should Atlanta fail to reach their ultimate goal of winning Super Bowl XLVII this season, Gonzalez should exercise his 5% clause and make at least one more run, because that team is on the threshold of greatness, and windows of opportunity like this don’t come around often in NFL, as Gonzalez can very well attest.
But if the Falcons should move ahead, and eventually hoist the Lombardi Trophy, then it would be a fitting end to Tony Gonzalez’s remarkable career, and he can walk off knowing there is nothing he had not accomplished in a sport that he has given so much to over the years.
Tony Gonzalez is one of those once in a lifetime athletes that fans should consider themselves lucky to have seen play – a player, a teammate, an inspiration, a leader. It’s a sure thing that the moment he becomes eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame that he will be voted in without question.
For those of us who have been witness to Gonzalez’s entire career, we have seen something special, and while the selfish part of us would probably like to see more, the sentimental part of us would love to see him reach his dream and his goal…
Enshrined in Canton, Ohio as not only the greatest tight end ever, but as a Super Bowl champion.