If you are reading an article about an NFL player, then it is safe to say you at least have a basic understanding of what Tony Gonzalez has accomplished during his highly-decorated career. How couldn’t you?
For 16 extremely impressive seasons, Gonzalez has been building his legacy, redefining his position and setting every tight end record you can think of. 16 seasons of playing at the highest level makes it impossible for even the most casual of fans to be unaware of his accomplishments. It has been a joy and a privilege to watch Gonzalez throughout his career, and now that career may be at its end.
Tony Gonzalez, for all of his many records and achievements, had never won a playoff game until last weekend against the Seattle Seahawks. Five postseason appearances with either the Kansas City Chiefs, or his current team, the Atlanta Falcons, and Gonzalez had never tasted victory. But this is what he came to Atlanta for, was it not?
The thought of Gonzalez not playing for the Chiefs was strange at first, but no one could deny the fact he deserved a shot at a title, and he was likely not going to get it in Kansas City. Four seasons have gone by with the Atlanta Falcons, and Gonzalez now has a playoff win to his credit, and was just one game away from the promised land, Super Bowl XLVII.
Atlanta lost on Championship Sunday, allowing the San Francisco 49ers to return from a 17 point deficit, and losing out on their chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. After the game, Gonzalez talked about the strong possibility of this having been the last game of his illustrious NFL career.
But why should it be?
Gonzalez looked terrific this season, playing in all 16 games and coming up just 70 yards short of his fifth 1,000 yard season. He caught eight touchdowns from quarterback Matt Ryan, and was an integral part of the Falcons offensive machine. Without him, the Falcons could not have known the success they did in 2012. With him they came just one game short of the ultimate goal.
The 36 year old tight end played at an insanely high level, with just two tight ends in the league reaching a higher yardage total – and neither one even close to playing in his 16th season! Gonzalez is in great shape and is still capable of playing at a high level. With this in mind, and the goal of a Super Bowl still unrealized, it only seems right that Gonzalez would come back for another go ‘round.
The Falcons are still poised to vie for the Lombardi Trophy. The team went a league best13-3 (tied with the Denver Broncos) and led the NFC from wire to wire. They shook the specter of being unable to get it done in the playoffs by getting the win in the Divisional Round, and they jumped out to a 17 point lead against one of the best defenses in the league. With a couple of tweaks, the Falcons will come back next season just as good, and hopefully better.
It is still the perfect opportunity for the future Hall of Fame tight end to get his ring. He deserves one, and with everything his team has to offer, there is no reason to stop playing when he is so close to the top of the mountain.
Of course, if Gonzalez is simply at the point where he feels he cannot do it any more, we will have to respect it and applaud him for going out at the top of his incredible career. As a fan of the game, though, it is hard to let the All-Pro fade of into the sunset. Not when he is playing so well, and not when he is so close.
Gonzalez says he is 95% sure he will be retiring, and he also says he has no regrets if this is where his career ends. This makes it hard not to be happy for him, but there is still that 5% that could win out.
Take your time Tony, and think it over. Hopefully we see your timeless grace take center stage once more when the Falcons return to the field this fall.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.