Tony Gonzalez is a virtual lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Clay Matthews Jr. is a longshot. The only thing the two have in common is that they spent the twilight years of their respective careers as Atlanta Falcons, and they’re both semi-finalists for this year’s Hall of Fame class.
Gonzalez needs no introduction. In five seasons with Atlanta from 2009 to 2013, he never missed a game and caught 409 balls for 4,187 yards and 35 touchdowns, arguably or even perhaps inarguably the best five year stretch ever by a Falcons tight end. He played on some of the best Falcons teams ever and was a legitimate force until very near the end, and based on his earlier career with Kansas City, is a slam dunk choice for Canton. He’s quite simply the best receiving tight end ever, with only a return to health from Rob Gronkowski potentially robbing him of that honor.
Matthews wasn’t that good, but he was a four-time Pro Bowler with 69.5 career sacks and 16 interceptions as a linebacker, and he spent his final three seasons with the Falcons. He lives in the shadow of his father, the patriarch of an absurdly great football family, and his son Clay Matthews III, who has 82.5 career sacks and is one of the great Packers of the modern era. There’s still a chance he could get in, though.
Here’s the full list. It’s a good group, but we naturally will root hard for these former Falcons to make it.