Congrats to former #Falcons tight end @TonyGonzalez88 who has punched his ticket to Canton as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019.https://t.co/zOzo2V5Qu4 pic.twitter.com/GNVjTU7CFs— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) February 2, 2019
Gonzalez retired after the 2014 season as the greatest tight end in NFL history, a prolific receiver who revolutionized the position for the likes of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, and others. While he’s not going to Canton for his blocking, he was a passable option there, and that plus remarkable receiving production over the course of two decades makes him a slam dunk Hall of Famer. With Gronkowski’s body breaking down, it seems likely that Gonzo’s career marks for tight ends will hold up for a very, very long time yet.
It’s worth considering just how remarkable they are in light of Gonzo’s position. Before he came along, the number of truly elite receiving tight ends was quite small, but Gonzalez’s incredible route running, soft hands and athleticism were so stellar that he finished his career sixth on the NFL’s all-time list for receiving yardage (the next closest is Jason Witten, 21st), second in receptions (Antonio Gates is 17th), and eighth in touchdown receptions (Gates is above him, tied for 6th). Gates and Witten are Hall of Fame caliber players in their own right, but Gonzalez’s career stands out as far and away the best ever for a receiving tight end, and as such he certainly belongs in Canton.
Of course, it’s welcome news in part because Gonzalez spent five seasons in Atlanta.
There’s no question that Gonzalez will be remembered primarily as a Chief, as he put up 916 receptions for over 10,000 yards, 11.9 yards per reception and 76 touchdowns over 190 games in Kansas City. But the second part of his career in Atlanta, which saw him make the playoffs three times and reel in 409 receptions for over 4,000 yards, 10.2 yards per reception and 35 touchdowns in 80 games, is fondly remembered by Falcons fans and is still a huge part of his case for Canton, even if he didn’t exactly depart on the best possible terms.
Gonzalez becomes one of a growing number of former Falcons Hall of Famers, joining the likes of Deion Sanders, Morten Andersen, Chris Doleman, Claude Humphrey, and to a lesser extent Eric Dickerson, Brett Favre and Bobby Beathard. Unfortunately, extremely deserving choices like Jessie Tuggle, Tommy Nobis and Mike Kenn have fallen by the wayside over the years, meaning Gonzalez may become one of the last Falcons in until Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and perhaps Matt Bryant hang up their cleats.
Congratulations, Tony Gonzalez!