The Great Debate: Was the Acquisition of Tony Gonzalez a Mistake?

Hello all, I’m not quite the stat beast that is James or Orang3b, but what I can give you is some opinionated posts that will hopefully generate conversation amongst the great fans we have here on the Falcoholic. That should already be obvious by the ever-cliché name "The Great Debate". I’ll still bring some stats into the equation when it calls for it, but I won’t get very deep into stats. I try to keep things realistic, and that’s the point of these threads, that being to provide a realistic discussion of a topic.

First and foremost, my posts will not always bring about the negativity and pessimism in everyone, however I feel like that our recent win (and loss) have caused us to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows with the team. These debates will help give a realistic viewpoint on certain issues with the team while also allowing you guys to discuss your opinions on the matter. Also, be nice.

You’re probably questioning my sanity at this point because you’ve read all this and have already made your decision on the subject. Follow me after the jump and I’ll tell you why I think the way I do and we’ll discuss exactly why the acquisition of Tony Gonzalez may have been a mistake instead of a blessing.

It goes without saying that Tony Gonzalez is the one of the greatest tight ends of all time. It wouldn’t take much of an argument to call him the greatest tight end of all time, bar none. It has become an increasingly noticeable trend in young Matty Ice’s career that he absolutely LOVES to look at his HoF TE up and down the field.

It has become such a noticeable trend that I recently asked myself, "What if the acquisition of Tony Gonzalez has actually slowed Matt Ryan’s growth as a quarterback?" At first glance, it’s easy to say "No!" simply because without Gonzo, we certainly wouldn’t have one of the most reliable receiving tight ends to ever play the game.

Because I’m not much of a stat man (I encourage you all to use stats for your opinions, I’m just leaving most of the stat posts to James.) I’ll very briefly bring up Matty’s rookie year. It was one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory, and it included murmurs of "Peyton Manning", among other QBs who had solid rookie seasons. Here’s some everyman’s stats.

 

61% Completion Rate for 3,440 yards with 16 TDs and 11 INTs.

I’m sure everyone remembers that year very vividly.

 

In 2009, Matty regressed a bit:

58.3% Completion Rate for 2,916 yards with 22 TDs and 14 INTs. (Thanks, NFL.com)

 

Granted, the nice thing about these debates is that there’s a whole lot of factors that make this such a debatable topic. In 2008, Matty had a very healthy Michael Turner who pounded his way to 1700 yards on the ground. Any time you have THAT in the backfield, it’s much easier to pass the ball.

In 2009, the Falcons were without that luxury. Turner was banged up, as was half the team. The Falcons were forced to rely on Matty through the air, and they were forced to do it against a much stiffer schedule than in the previous year. In turn, the offense suffered what appeared to be a setback, as the running game stumbled and Matty relied heavily on Gonzo and White. Football Outsiders shows that Gonzo and White accounted for about 56% of Matty’s targets last year. (253 of 451, if my math is right.)

Michael Jenkins also accounted for 85 more targets, so the grand total is pushing over 75% of total attempts.

As a defensive coordinator, I would start licking my chops in a hurry if I saw those numbers, and many DCs had those two connections on speed dial for much of the season. Granted, they couldn’t always stop it, but how many times did we yell at Ryan to stop telegraphing his throws?

Go back to 2008. Matty had fewer TDs, yes, but he was also more accurate, had fewer interceptions, and had a TD vulture in Michael Turner.

However, the intriguing part is how the offense worked without someone like Gonzo.

Matty had 434 attempts in 2008, spread out in this fashion: 148, 81, 39, 36, and others. Those four receivers are White, Jenkins, Douglas, and Finn. Those four accounted for 304 of the 434 attempts, leaving the other 130 attempts to be spread around the team over the course of the season. (Four receivers spread out among less than 75% of attempts as opposed to two receivers and a tight end getting more than 75% of all attempts. See where I’m going with this?)

Why was Matty better in ’08? Yes, Turner has a part in that, but Snelling was no joke in ’09. In ’09, Turner and Snelling had comparable yards from scrimmage at 906 and 872, respectively. I don’t think it takes a genius to know that most of Snelling’s yards came post-Turner injury.

One thing that I take away from Gonzo’s arrival is something obvious. Matty quit spreading the ball around as much, and it negatively impacted the team, albeit slightly. Gonzo was brought in to be a security blanket for Matty, but in turn, he ended up suffocating in the blanket instead of keeping warm with it.

In conclusion, I don’t think Gonzo’s acquisition was a mistake, however I do think that it may have hindered Matty Ice’s growth as a QB. It wasn’t enough of a hindrance to derail any careers, but I do think his over-reliance on Gonzo has landed him in some habits that he’d be better off without.

So, Falcoholics, I have armed you with my everyman knowledge. Now, discuss! Tell me what you think!

I’m open for suggestions on how to make these better. I’d love to get some great debate generating posts going in the coming weeks.

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