We’ll wait to write the official Tony Gonzalez commemorative career post. As is the case with any athlete who’s nearing that everlasting career twilight, if there’s even a sliver of a shred of a chance that he’ll return, it could happen. Not that we doubt Gonzo at all, as he’s voiced his intentions repeatedly, and he seems genuine. But let’s not rush to get Favre’ed. Or Moss’ed.
But if we assume that he does indeed make his retirement official soon, Gonzalez is quite clearly destined for Canton, and he’s quite clearly one of the best (if not the best) tight ends to ever play the game. After his 16 seasons he leads the position in receiving yards, with his total currently sitting at 14,268, an average of 914.3 yards per year. He also has the most career receptions for a tight end, and the most +1,000 yard seasons among tight ends. So yes, he is/was a pretty good tight end.
There’s one Gonzalez stat that has some added quirk, though. His ability to hold on to a football is perhaps uncanny for his position.
Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner noted Gonzalez’s supreme lack of fumbling last night, which is an important attribute for a pass catcher who’s often asked to patrol the chaotic middle of the field where multiple large-bodied safeties and linebackers seek to hurt people. Yet still after fumbling five times over his first three seasons in Kansas City, Gonazalez has fumbled only once since.
Seriously absorb that for a minute. That’s one fumble since the 2000 season, a 12-year stretch in which Gonzalez missed only one game while starting 191 times. In those games he touched a football 1,076 times.
Not impressed? Welp, let’s look at how Gonzalez’s steady hands during that prolonged period compare to other top players at his position. Rob Gronkowski just completed his third NFL season, and he’s appeared in 43 games, receiving 188 touches. Yet he’s fumbled twice, which is already one more turfing than what Gonzo had over the last 13 years.
Then there’s Jimmy Graham, the Saints tight end who’s fumbled three times during his three seasons and 216 touches. Jason Witten? He’s probably the best comparison, as he’s been in the league for a decade. Yet Witten has still fumbled five times over 159 career games and 806 touches. A fine pace, but not Gonzo-ian, as Witten has fumbled once every 161.2 touches.
In conclusion: Gonzo the best.