Chuck Norris wants to be Tony Gonzalez when he grows up.
Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff was a guest on NBC Sports Network's Pro Football Talk yesterday, and he said that he wants to believe Tony Gonzalez's chances of retiring are a lot closer to 50/50, as opposed to the 95% certainty that the 2012 season was Gonzalez's last.
It's indisputable that Gonzalez has been a significant contributor to Atlanta's offense since joining the team via trade from the Kansas City Chiefs prior to the 2009 season. Tony has never missed a game in his four seasons with the Falcons--not surprising, as he's only missed two games in his entire career. That's ridiculous.
In his time with the Falcons, Gonzalez has managed 326 catches on 486 targets, for a completion percentage of 67%. 211 of those catches, 65%, were for first downs. Tony's had 27 of his 103 career receiving touchdowns in Atlanta. As an added bonus, Tony Gonzalez has never fumbled the ball with the Falcons--not terribly surprising, as he has only fumbled six times in his 16 year career. Again, that's ridiculous.
Atlanta had a stellar season offensively, finishing the regular season eighth in the league in offensive yards per game with 369.1, sixth in passing yards with 281.8, and 7th in points per game with 26.2. While it's worth noting that the Falcons also have two stellar wide receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez made huge contributions to Atlanta's success in 2012, finishing the regular season with the 93 catches, trailing only Jason Witten. Gonzalez finished with 930 receiving yards, an average of 10 yards per catch, and eight touchdowns. 65 of his receptions resulted in first downs.
Tony Gonzalez is showing no signs of decline. If anything, he was more effective in 2012, with more catches, more receiving yards, and more touchdowns than he had in any of his previous three seasons with the Falcons. He also caught 75% of the balls thrown his way, compared to 69% in 2011, 63% in 2010 and 61% in 2009. It's understandable for Gonzalez to want to retire at the top of his game, and not take the chance of having to deal with age catching up with him on the field, but considering the statistics, it's clear that Gonzalez is not yet at that point. To quote the Comrade, Tony "knows that he still has fuel in the tank and it's very legitimate fuel in the tank."
It was difficult to watch Gonzalez leave the field after the NFC Championship loss to the 49ers, knowing that the greatest tight end in the history of the game was coming to terms with the fact that he was that close to playing in the Super Bowl. While the Falcons do have to deal with the fact that, if Gonzalez does come back, it's probably 100% certain that 2013 would be his last season, and they need to make plans to move on at the position. But, if Tony does come back for one more season, he gives the Falcons a better chance to get to that next level in 2013.