First, we have Gonzalez officially asking the Chiefs to seek a trade last September. Second, we have Gonzalez going public with his trade demand in October. Third, we have Gonzalez expressing disdain for any rebuilding effort in Kansas City during Pro Bowl week in February. Fourth, we have “a person close to Gonzalez” reiterating an apparent desire to be traded just this last week.
Now, it is true that no deal was ever reached for Gonzalez during the season. It’s also true that Gonzalez denied a trade demand during Pro Bowl week and finally, that Scott Pioli recently indicated he had not received any such demand from his Pro Bowl tight end.
But, really, is there enough smoke here, or what? The fire is burning pretty hot, and it smells an awful lot like Tony Gonzalez would not mind playing in another uniform this season. Requesting a trade once is one thing, but when the same headline is popping up again months later, we’d be fools to believe there’s not at least a tiny part of Gonzalez that’s itching to get out of the Midwest.
Too bad. There’s plenty of reason for you to stay in Kansas City, Tony, and plenty of reason why going anywhere else might be a terrible decision.
Let’s start with the most obvious – Matt Cassel needs someone to throw the football to. A Chiefs offense without Tony Gonzalez is an offense with only one reliable target – Dwayne Bowe – who dropped 13 passes last year. Without Gonzalez, Bowe’s double teams go up, and Bobby Engram, Mark Bradley, and the rest of the not-worth-a-mention wide receivers on KC’s roster are all that’s left.
Clearly that’s no way to build a pass-first offense, if we can assume that’s what Todd Haley plans to do, considering his history. And, wow, should the Chiefs part ways with Larry Johnson, things would really begin to look grim.
The need to provide Cassel with reliable, experienced targets in the passing game can’t be overstated. He just finished up a year throwing to Randy Moss and Wes Welker. He’s used to receivers who strike fear into defenders, know how to get open, and don’t waste opportunities.
Remember what happened the last time the Chiefs traded for a quarterback and gave him only one reliable target? He threw 24 interceptions.
That alone should be enough to scare Pioli and Haley into keeping a death grip on Gonzalez for the foreseeable future. You’d think the only trade offer they might consider would involve an experienced wide receiver. Perhaps a disgruntled one. You can probably guess who I’m talking about, but that’s a completely different topic.
Now there’s the matter of Gonzalez’s desire to win a Super Bowl, apparently the driving force behind his trade demand. The only problem with that is the old cliché – the grass is not always greener.
How many aging, past-their-prime stars do you remember being traded and going on to win Super Bowls in the last 10 years? Probably not many, and for a good reason – it just doesn’t happen all that often. The best example might be Corey Dillon, whom the Patriots traded a second-round pick for in 2004. Dillon went on to win one Super Bowl, and retired two seasons later.
One player in 10 years doesn’t set much of a precedent. And going back to our cliché, not only is the grass not always greener, sometimes the guy running the other farm doesn’t even want you to eat it. Case in point, the teams who were reportedly interested in trading for Gonzalez last season.
According to media reports, the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills both attempted to acquire Gonzalez. But clearly, he had no interest in either franchise, as they weren’t considered strong Super Bowl contenders. The Titans, Steelers, Dolphins, Panthers, Giants and Vikings – the top six seeds in last year’s playoffs – clearly didn’t have much interest in Gonzalez, or a deal likely would have been struck. Perhaps one of those teams offered a pick, but it wasn’t enough for Carl Peterson to pull the trigger, obviously.
It's doubtful the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers or Baltimore Ravens - three probable 2009 contenders - would be interested in Gonzalez. All three teams have young, talented tight ends. Adding Gonzalez would be overkill.
The Titans, Giants and Panthers might have interest in Gonzalez. But all three of those teams will likely compete without him. How much are they really going to offer? Would Gonzalez even want to play with Kerry Collins or - gasp - Vince Young?
And I think we can safely rule out Gonzalez becoming a New England Patriot.
Maybe Gonzalez’s best chance at a Super Bowl is in Kansas City. It’s no more uncertain a place than Atlanta or Buffalo at this point. If Pioli, Haley and Cassel are wise choices, the Chiefs should be on the championship track soon enough. Would Gonzalez have to play a few more years to get to that point? Probably. But what’s so terrible about that?
Think about how Gonzalez might completely bury every tight end record ever recorded if he plays four or five more seasons. Antonio Gates and Jason Witten won’t have a prayer of passing him up.
Remember how great it was seeing Jerome Bettis go out a champion? Remember the drama of John Elway’s final two seasons? Kansas City legend Len Dawson was a grizzled 34-year old when the 1969 Chiefs won the Super Bowl. There’s no reason Tony Gonzalez can’t go out the same way.