Think about what it means. Think about what it says about Tony Gonzalez that he's the first tight end in NFL history with 1,000 career catches.
Kellen Winslow doesn't have 1,000 catches. One of the greatest tight ends of all time, the hard-charging Winslow only had 541, albeit in a different era. Shannon Sharpe only managed 815, and you could safely argue that he's an all-time great who played on some of the best teams of the 1990's. Ozzie Newsome is a truly great, celebrated tight end, as well, and he didn't sniff the number.
Catches alone don't make you great, but they serve as a testament. Our Granola Gladiator Gonzalez is a low-key guy who keeps himself in amazing shape, yes. It takes so much more than that to get to 1,000 catches. You have to have Hall of Fame talent, the tenacity to hang in through the lowest of lows on bad teams, and the ability or luck to stay healthy through more than a decade of the worst pounding American sports have to offer.
Gonzalez has navigated all that with an aplomb that seems effortless. He's a Kansas City Chief first and foremost, but it's an honor to have him reach a milestone like 1,000 catches with the Falcons. Now that the monkey's off his back, so to speak, he'll hopefully have a typically awesome Gonzo season. I expect it.
I wouldn't be a writer if I didn't guess where Tony Gonzalez will end up on the list of all time greats, though. Find my thoughts after the jump.
He's the best tight end ever. There, you can all go home now.
Seriously, though. Shannon Sharpe is the best contemporary example to pit against him, and with a single exception their numbers aren't all that close:
Yards Per Reception
Sharpe was more of a threat to break on, and he didn't have the advantage of being the best target on a bad team. But I think you can persuasively argue that not only is Gonzalez one of the greatest tight ends ever, but he's one of the great possession receivers ever. There are few receivers in NFL history who have hands as steady as Gonzo. The fact that he can block a little—not a lot—is enough to make him a first ballot Hall of Famer.
After all, there's only
three six actual wide receivers in the history of the NFL who have 1,000 catches. Any guesses which ones?